By on June 14, 2017

fairfax line assembly factory general motors, Image: General Motors

If your current employment involves building a sedan for a domestic automaker, there’s both good and bad news awaiting you. General Motors is extending summer breaks at certain assembly plants and there may be an opportunity for some workers to extend that time off indefinitely, resulting in the least welcome vacations imaginable.

Stagnating sales and a bloated inventory is forcing GM to lengthen its traditional two-week summer shutdown to as many as five weeks for two U.S. factories, according to union officials. The affected plants are Lordstown Assembly, located in Ohio, and Kansas City’s Fairfax Assembly. Lordstown assembles the Chevrolet Cruze while Fairfax is responsible for the midsize Malibu, which has had a horrendous 2017. The Malibu had plenty of company in the doldrums, too. Through May, U.S. car sales were down 11 percent while truck and SUV sales rose by nearly 5 percent, forcing automakers to play favorites

Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, United Auto Workers Local 31 president Vicky Hale claimed the Kansas City plant could be idled for up to five weeks, with job cuts likely to follow. Robert Morales, president of the Lordstown union, said his factory will stop production for the last two weeks in June, followed by another three weeks in July.

“It’s just to align with market demand, that’s all,” he explained on Wednesday.

After seven years of relatively consistent growth, overall demand for vehicles is slowing. Total U.S. deliveries are down 2 percent for May and industry analysts are suggesting 2017 won’t surpass 17.2 million units. Any expectation of topping last year’s record 17.5 million deliveries is now unrealistic — even if there are jobs depending on high sales volume.

The Lordstown plant, which saw a third shift cut at the beginning of the year due to lowered demand, employs roughly 3,000 workers. The Fairfax plant has about 3,500 workers. Hopefully, those numbers are unchanged after next month.

[Image: General Motors]

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10 Comments on “General Motors Extends Summer Plant Shutdowns, Layoffs Likely to Follow...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    No surprise, and perhaps some shutdowns will need to be longer.

    “It’s just to align with market demand, that’s all”… Well, that’s kind of him to say, but it’s only partially true. GM has been overbuilding for months.

  • avatar

    If General Motors was assembling the 2017 Oldsmobile Antares or Profile SUV there would be no need for a plant shutdown beyond the standard two weeks.

    • 0 avatar

      Or Cadillac Escala or El Miraj.

      Or Buick Avenir.

      Potential customer: “I’m here to rest drive that beautiful Cadillac Escala I saw butnthwt commercial.”

      Pen Boy Uwe Ellinghaus: “I’m sorry sir/m’aam. That vehicle is a concept only, we don’t and will not build it, and we only use it in our advertising lately.”

      Melody Lee: “May we interest you in a Cadillac ATS or CTS with the same 2.0T motor used in Chevrolets?”

      Johan: “Or my flagship CT6 with the a 4 or 6 banger, and a really cheesy interior full of bad plastics, and an impossible-to-repair-post-accident chassis?”

      • 0 avatar

        Thank you! This has been making me nuts for years. Why does GM keep making amazing looking concepts with no interest in building them!? It’s like they are saying “yeah we could build something bold if we wanted but F U, here’s a CT6”

  • avatar

    Precisely why fleet sales can be your friend.

    • 0 avatar

      Not necessarily. Flood the rental car sector and they’ll be selling those cars in a couple years, lowering resale on those models. Another problem is that governments and businesses are switching from sedans to CUVs too. They expect volume discounts on vehicles that could be more profitably sold retail. There’s no way around having flexible assembly plants that build multiple models, to avoid idling plants. It can be done, but that’s a huge up-front investment in plant and equipment.

  • avatar

    Short term shutdowns/ temporary lay offs, extended summer,and Christmas vacations are “facts of life” in automotive assembly operations. As an auto worker, you learn to live with it.

    Seven – eight week summer shutdowns were the norm, up to about the early 80’s. When inventories/field stock numbers get too high, shutting down production is the most cost effective solution. Turning back line speed, and shift reduction is a longer term solution….

    Temporary lay offs VS permanent layoff , is a win win, for all sides.

  • avatar

    The Malibu. It’s finally a decent car, at least when new, but after umpteen generations of garbage, it is hard to conceive of a name with less brand equity. They might as well call it the Yugo.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh, it’s not THAT bad. I think the Malibu suffers from the usual electrical gremlins, but the bigger problem is the 4-door coupe styling, especially for people who want adults to fit in the back seat with reasonably comfortable high cushions.

      To get America’s plus sized (and older) adults in the back seats, you need higher cushions, a more upright posture, more headroom, and larger door openings. You can get that in a CUV, but not the poor-selling sedans.

      I wonder if automakers will ever figure out that the 4-door coupe design appeals only to a niche group, and excludes mainstream volume buyers?

    • 0 avatar

      General Motors had several chances to rename this automobile CHEVELLE, a name that has much more respect than Malibu.
      At least the heavy rock band utilizes the name in a swinging manner!

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