GM delays second shift at Volt plant

GM delays second shift at Volt plant
Mike Colias
Automotive News | October 7, 2011 – 2:30 pm EST
UPDATED: 10/7/11 3:25 pm ET

DETROIT — General Motors is delaying the addition of a second shift at its Michigan assembly plant that makes the Chevrolet Volt.

In May, GM said that it would add a second shift at its Detroit-Hamtramck plant in early 2012 to double Volt production. Instead, a plant overhaul completed this summer, along with a more-modest addition of workers, will allow GM to double production starting early next year while remaining on one shift, the company said today.

GM said the move “will significantly reduce costs, and has no impact on the plant’s ability to make 60,000 Volts and Amperas (the European version of the Volt) in 2012.” In May, GM upped its 2012 production forecast to 60,000, from an earlier forecast of 45,000. GM said it still will add about 300 people at the start of the year to increase Volt production, but it will remain on one 10-hour shift, four days a week.

GM is pushing back plans for a second shift, which would have added hundreds more workers, until the second half of 2012. By then, it’s expected that production of the next-generation Chevy Malibu will have begun at the plant.

George McGregor, president of UAW Local 22, which represents workers at the plant, said he had expected the addition of a second shift sometime in 2012, but GM had not specified when.

“The sooner the better, but I guess demand will dictate when that happens,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get a third shift someday, too.”

GM spokesman Chris Lee said in a statement: “This approach is just a more efficient way to make the same number of vehicles — it’s good for our business and good for our customers.”

In May, GM said it eventually would add a third shift at the plant, which is scheduled to begin assembly of the next-generation Chevy Malibu, due out early next year, and a new Chevy Impala, which is expected in 2013.

Automated functions

The plant was idled for about six weeks over the summer to automate some functions in the body shop, such as the subassembly of doors. GM also took out roughly six miles worth of conveyor belts, which streamlined the operation and boosted its throughput, the source said.

Those changes have increased production even before adding workers. This year through early August, the plant produced 4,249 Volts. GM says total production will hit 16,000 by year end.

About 10,000 of those will be sold in the United States, GM has said. Another 2,500 will be used as dealer demos. The rest will have been exported to Europe and China.

Next year, GM expects to produce about 45,000 Volts for the United States, along with 15,000 units for export.

GM sold 723 Volts in September. GM sold 3,895 Volts through the first nine months of the year. The vehicle went on sale in December.

Changes at the Detroit-Hamtramck factory will allow GM to double Volt production early next year while remaining on one shift.

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