Chevrolet Buffalo

Chevrolet Buffalo, which was in operation from 1923 to 2007, was one of the oldest continuously operated manufacturing facilities in Western New York. Located at 1001 East Delavan Avenue near Bailey Avenue, it opened in 1923 as a Chevrolet assembly plant. Civilian production of the passenger automobile halted during World War II. After the war ended, Chevrolet Buffalo was refitted from an assembly plant to a manufacturing plant producing rear axles for passenger cars and trucks. In 1984, Chevrolet-Buffalo joined the Saginaw Division of G.M. After a decade as Saginaw Gear and Axle, the plant was acquired by its last operator, American Axle, and continued production under that name until the plant ceased manufacturing in 2007. The labor force at this plant was part of Local 424 of the United Auto Workers Union, as part of reorganization of General Motors.

Asbestos disease does not become visible at the moment of exposure, but rather it takes many years to develop. This means that those suffering from asbestos disease now, likely had their first exposure to asbestos as long as 15 or 20 years ago, or more. Unfortunately for the former workers at Chevrolet Buffalo, the legacy of this now closed plant may be serious or fatal asbestos disease, such as mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis.

As Chevrolet Buffalo was in the business of building axles for automobiles and trucks, workers were exposed to asbestos used as a component part of the axles manufactured at this plant. Asbestos was also used to insulate sections of the plant, and it was also used in building materials that housed the equipment the plant produced. In the manufacture of rear axles, workers fit asbestos-containing brake shoes onto brake assemblies. The brake linings, pads and shoes used at the Chevrolet Buffalo facility arrived in bulk, open containers laden with residual asbestos dust from the original manufacturer. Airborne asbestos dust was generated when the brakes were unloaded and handled. Dust was especially significant when the linings were ground to size on the premises. As the brakes were typically made of between 50 to 75% chrysotile asbestos, the work was extremely hazardous.

In addition to the asbestos in the brake linings used in the assembly process, workers at Chevrolet Buffalo were exposed to asbestos used as an insulating material on high temperature piping and machinery. Those who worked in the Chevrolet Buffalo plants were constantly exposed to asbestos dust from working with and in the vicinity of men who repaired and maintained asbestos insulation on pipes, tanks, ducts, heat treat equipment and boilers. Construction, repair and maintenance work was performed by both Chevrolet-Buffalo employees and by outside contractors hired by General Motors. In addition to exterior asbestos insulation, Chevrolet had a vast network of pipes and piping systems which included a wide array of pumps and valves. In the initial assembly and maintenance of this system, asbestos-containing gaskets and rope asbestos packing were widely used. This ultimately caused the airborne release of asbestos when the materials were cut during new installation or when they were removed by scraping, grinding or wire brushing.


Chevrolet Plant Map courtesy of Tonawanda-Kenmore Historical Society

The attorneys at Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford, LLC have gathered a vast amount of information concerning the type and variety of asbestos-containing products used at Chevrolet Buffalo and the other General Motors Plants located in Western New York, including the Chevrolet Foundry, Chevrolet Forge, Chevrolet Engine Plants and the Harrison Radiator Plants located in both Buffalo and Lockport, New York. Our clients understand the importance of securing legal representation as soon as possible after a diagnosis of mesothelioma or lung cancer. If you or a loved one were once employed at any of these manufacturing plants and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.