By on January 22, 2010

Automotive News [sub] quotes CAW President Ken Lawenza as saying “supplier challenges” have shut down production of the Chrysler Group’s minivan plant in Windsor, Ontario. Chrysler confirmed that the plant would be closed until February 1, but refused to elaborate on the circumstances. According to Lawenza, “the reason is because if a supplier never lived up to their contract, then it could be legal ramifications. We let those guys hash it out legally.” The President of CAW Local 444 Rick LaPorte adds “it’s a piece for the key fob, so my understanding is that it’s a raw material issue. The good news is that it’s not an inventory adjustment problem or a lack of sales; it’s a good problem to have.” You know, relatively speaking.

In other production news, GM is adding overtime to production of Tahoe, Yukon and Escalade at its Arlington plant, as it battles low inventory levels (34 days supply and lower) for the full-sized utes. According to GM, dealers are screaming for more big SUVs, but with Ford bumping full-sized production and SUV sales falling, someone’s going to find themselves with more utes than they can get rid of in a few months.

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17 Comments on “Supplier Issues Shut Windsor Until February, GM Adds Overtime At Arlington...”

  • avatar

    Holy Cow….I was a Global Supply Chain manager for 15 yrs and I could get darned-near ANYTHING in 72 hours. A part for a Key Fob? Are you kidding me? It’s either a battery, plastic resin, electronic components or the little RF security module. It’s not like the high production demand caused a shortage either. I say BS.

  • avatar

    Meh, it’s just another Chryco fob story.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    That dog don’t hunt. The minivans can be built and matched up with fobs when they are available in a week or so.

  • avatar

    The factory video was great! It’s fascinating to see what goes into the manufacturing of a vehicle. It’s interesting that the engine manufacturing plant workers wear uniforms but the vehicle assembly line workers don’t. Perhaps the engine factory is not union run or is part Japanese owned?

    • 0 avatar

      The Engine Plant workers are from GEMA, i.e, Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance. It was an alliance between Chrysler, Mitsubishi and Hyundai. It was a showcase new manufacturing facility environment for Chrysler, who supplied the employees for the alliance. Therefore, they got fancy uniforms.

  • avatar

    For want of a nail, a kingdom was lost, and for want of a key fob, the factory had to shut down for a week. Hmm…as our Canadian friends might say, far-fetched, eh?

    But I too loved the video. Car companies should do more of these things to engage the enthusiasts. Sorry, here’s a dumb question: are engines run for a while before they’re sent to car assembly plants, or are engines started for the first time at the end of the assembly line? Many years ago I saw Fords coming off the line and the engines belched a lot of smoke when they were started and the cars roared off with the tires “laying rubber”. Made me wince.

  • avatar

    10:1 it’s a supplier that has either gone belly up or is refusing to ship until they get paid.

  • avatar

    Not related to the topic, but there is a Ford video “How A Car Is Built” by Think Media Productions. It’s a 30 minute movie about the production of Mustangs. Interesting video to watch.

    Although Mickey might not agree, touring an auto plant or assembly plant is just amazing. I went through the Lincoln Wixom assembly plant in 2002 and it was an eye opener. I still chuckle at the Rube Goldberg machinery needed to flip the Town Car chassis, since Wixom was designed for unitized vehicle production.

    Nothing related to the main article, except that maybe GM should reopen their old Janesville plant in Wisconsin. I’m just kidding of course, since that plant was built to assemble the old Sampson Tractor that Durant was sure would beat the heck out of old Henry’s Tractors.

    • 0 avatar

      The frame-flipping device is standard equipment in a BOF frame line (at least within Ford) … at that point on the line there is little that can be done to damage the frame (aside from scraping off paint or the “Ziebart” anti-corrosion coating)…

      Despite the original product that was in the plant, there have been so many BOF vehicles thru that plant since ~1957 that assy lines were installed, torn-out, installed, etc… there was unlikey to be any of the original equipment in that plant by the time you visited it in 2002 … I always liked how they had a Town Car, LS, and T-Bird on the roof of the plant… (btw, when Ford nearly went bankrupt in the early ’80’s Ford turned off all the lights they could in every location, and for me, the sign that they had turned the corner a few years afterward was when the flood lights on the “Ford” oval sign next to I-96 were turned on again…

    • 0 avatar

      I own a copy of that “How a Car Is Built”. I got it back in the mid 90s.

  • avatar

    I call BS on Chrysler’s explanation … How do I know?

    Ever hear the one how some dealers were stealing the RKE FOBs from delivered unsold units and giving them to customers that were demanding 3 FOBs for the price of 2 (usually for one of the kids) … How was it handled? Dealers claimed to Chrysler that the vehicle was delivered w only 1 FOB … Chrysler passed it along to TRW as a warranty claim for short-shipping … TRW tried different production solutions to overcome the assumed mistake … no solution worked … TRW finally got pissed (probably refused to pay any longer – don’t know this for sure, but besides stopping shipping, this is usually the supplier’s only other real lever) and Chrysler started investigating and found the source of the problem (the dealers of course) … no word on if these dealers were among those culled…

    Summary: For such an issue, and unless there are vehicles stacked up in the pipeline and dealer’s lots, no OEM in its right mind stops producton over such an issue … especially for such an item which can be shipped to the dealer before the retail sale, or the customer afterwards…

    My guess is there is something else going on in combination with the RKE issue (like too many unsold vehicles), or else this is a smoke screen for some other issue like supplier insolvency or a major production quality problem … but that is only my guess…)

    BTW, anybody else having trouble posting comments? I have brand new equipment and am not having trouble with any other application … My problem is that after writing a comment and hitting the submit button the computer hangs … and the comment is lost if I hit the back up button (only rarely is the comment posted, most times it is lost) …

    I am also finding that the edit feature doesn’t load the first time … it hangs … so I cancel it and reload it then it seems to work… the edit issue is a minor annoyance, but losing and having to, sometimes 3 times, retype my long-winded comments is a time-consuming and frustrating drag … (this is why I asked previously if the B&B were finding, entertainment, if not utility in my comments.)

    • 0 avatar

      Robert, no problem posting with my Toshiba running Windows 7 and Firefox.

    • 0 avatar

      I should add the unit is an HP Pavillion dv3-2240EZ touch screen laptop w/ IE8 running on W7, and the issue now is less profound than with older equipment I recently used, IBM and Fujitsu-Siemens laptops both IE8 running on WXP.

    • 0 avatar


      Your explanation would have been more likely in the past when these cars still had conventional keys and the fob was just an item of convenience to open the doors or set off the panic alarm. Today, there are no more keys on most Chrysler products – they use a “FOBIK” that looks to my eyes to be very similar to what Mercedes uses/used. There is an “emergency” key stored in it to unlock a door, but without the FOBIK to communicate with the anti-theft module in the car, you aren’t going anywhere. I found a picture of it on the web:

      One look at that (even though it’s a Jeep one – they are all basically the same more or less) and it’s easy to understand why this is enough to shut down a plant – since the car will stall a few seconds after attempting a start without the FOBIK, how would they get them of the line and into the storage lot without a lot of hassle?

  • avatar
    Corky Boyd

    Chrysler wouldn’t shut down the assembly line over a key fob. No manufacturer would. They would simply keep up production and put the cars on the lot until the supply chain is reestablished. The problem has to be more serious than that.

    This blog carried an article about two months ago that Chrysler had major issues with Daimler over its treatment during bankruptcy proceedings and would not deliver parts for the Jeep and engines for one of the car lines. I suspect this might be what’s at play here. Probably Obama will shell out a couple of hundred million of our money to satisfy Daimler and keep Chrysler up and running.

    • 0 avatar

      Wheeljack is right. No FOBIKS no engine start,period.The FOBIKS come pre-programmed to the so-called WIN-Module and it is imperative to at least have one unit available to start the engine and drive the vehicle off the final line.So if both are missing this will shut operations down.

  • avatar

    I live in Windsor, and i dont believe key fobs one bit. there are unsold vehicle rumors around . Johnson controls is closing up its interior trim plant supplying the minivan plant too. All is not right. Lewenza and his union are a big part of the problem, and i as a Canadian tax payer greatly resent our government using my money to pay their salaries. It will never be returned.

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