Ford, Chrysler to reduce summer shutdowns at most N.A. plants GM not yet disclosing specific plans

Ford, Chrysler to reduce summer shutdowns at most N.A. plants
GM not yet disclosing specific plans
Vince Bond Jr.
Automotive News | May 22, 2013 – 12:01 am EST
— UPDATED: 5/22/13 11:26 am ET – adds Chrysler, GM statements
DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group are scaling back annual summer production shutdowns this year in hopes of boosting output of key models in North America.

General Motors declined to disclose specific summer plans.

Ford said today it is reducing annual summer shutdowns to one week from two weeks at 20 North America plants. Ford said the shortened hiatus will boost car and light-truck output in North America by 40,000 units.

Combined with other recent production changes, the latest moves will add 240,000 units of annual straight-time capacity in North America this year.

The added output will help meet demand that has lifted the automaker’s U.S. market share to 16.3 percent through April, up nearly a full point from a year earlier. Ford’s U.S. sales have increased 13 percent in an overall U.S. market that has advanced 7 percent.

It will be the second year in a row Ford has scaled back its summer shutdown schedule.

Ford will continue to operate its North American facilities at “full manned capacity” to meet consumer demand, Jim Tetreault, Ford’s vice president in charge of North America manufacturing, said in a statement.

Ford said 200,000 units of additional capacity will come from assembly plants in Chicago, Flat Rock, Mich., and Kansas City, Mo., where the company has added crews, adjusted line speeds, and taken other steps to increase production.

The plants produce the Ford Explorer, Ford Fusion, and Ford F-series pickups, some of the company’s most popular vehicles.

Sales of the F series have increased 19 percent this year and demand for the redesigned Fusion has climbed 25 percent.

Ford’s Tetreault: “Approximately 75 percent of our plants are running at a three-crew, three-shift or four-crew pattern.”

Ford produced 2.8 million light vehicles in North America last year and output has advanced 13 percent this year through April.

“Approximately 75 percent of our plants are running at a three-crew, three-shift or four-crew pattern in order to ensure we’re getting more of our products into dealerships,” Tetreault said.

Ford said the plants that will be shut down for one week this summer are in Chicago; Louisville, Ky., Wayne, Mich.; Oakville, Ontario; and Cuautitlán and Hermosillo, Mexico.

Routine maintenance and model-year changeovers are scheduled at Ford’s truck plant in Dearborn, Mich.; a car plant in Flat Rock, Mich.; a Kansas City assembly plant; the Louisville plant that assembles the Ford Escape; and a truck plant in Avon Lake, Ohio.

Ford, which plans to hire nearly 3,500 workers this year, said it’s three quarters of the way toward its plan to create 12,000 hourly jobs in the United States by 2015.

The automaker added more than 8,000 hourly and salaried positions in 2012.

GM does things ‘differently’

GM spokesman Bill Grotz declined to comment on summer production schedules for specific plants. He said GM “does things a bit differently” than in the past, when most plants would be idled for the first weeks of July for model-year changeover and facility maintenance.

“Today, plant downtime is driven more by specific vehicles’ life cycles and in market demand,” Grotz said.

Still, most of GM’s 14 assembly plants in the United States and Canada likely will be idled for at least two weeks this summer. One exception could be its plant in Lansing, Mich., where GM’s full-sized crossovers — the Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia — are built.

Combined sales of the crossovers, which were restyled for the 2013 model year, were up 11 percent through April. GM’s overall U.S. sales through April have risen 10 percent.

The company boosted North American production 5 percent in 2012 to 3.2 million vehicles. But with truck model changeovers, production through mid-May this year declined 4.6 percent to 1.2 million vehicles, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

Chrysler plans

Chrysler said today it will keep three assembly plants open all summer: Jefferson North, where the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango are produced, Conner Avenue, where the Viper is assembled, and Toledo North, which is ramping up production of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee.

Four of Chrysler’s assembly plants will be down for a single week this summer: Toledo Supplier Park on July 1; Belvidere, Ill., and Toluca, Mexico on July 15 and Saltillo, Mexico on Aug. 5. Other Chrysler assembly plants, including its two in Canada, are scheduled to observe traditional two-week shutdowns this summer, Chrysler said.

In addition, only one Chrysler transmission plant, Indiana II in Kokomo, will have a one-week shutdown. All of the automaker’s engine and transmission plants will continue to operate without a shutdown this summer, Chrysler said.

Chrysler Group’s U.S. sales rose 9 percent through April compared with the same period last year. The U.S. market is up 7 percent.

The automaker’s North American light vehicle production actually fell about 2 percent, or about 20,000 units, through mid-May because of the end of Jeep Liberty production. Last year, Chrysler boosted production in North America by 19 percent to 2.4 million vehicles, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

Larry P. Vellequette and Mike Colias contributed to this report.

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