Temporary Shutdowns Insufficient; GM Eliminates Shift at Chevrolet Malibu's Kansas Assembly Plant

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

In September 2017, General Motors will be forced to lay off a large number of workers at its Kansas City, Kansas assembly plant where the Chevrolet Malibu is built.

Only two days ago we learned General Motors would stretch the Fairfax assembly plant’s summer shutdown by an additional three weeks — from two to five in 2017 — because of excessive Malibu inventory. But as GM seeks to maintain a more reasonable grip on incentives than in the past, the only remaining way of reducing an inventory glut is to stop building so many cars.

Unfortunately for some of GM’s Kansas employees, the announcement of a temporary shutdown — the third this year according to the Kansas City Business Journal — will be an insufficient means of reducing stock. The Kansas City Star reports the number of shifts at the plant will be reduced to two in late September.

After Chevrolet’s U.S. midsize sales rapidly elevated to a 36-year high in calendar year 2016 during the ninth-generation Malibu’s launch, volume has declined hard and fast in early 2017.

Through the first five months of 2017, Malibu sales are down 30 percent, falling nearly three times faster than the segment overall. Already this year, GM has lost more than 31,000 Malibu sales. Heading into June, Automotive News reported a 67-day supply of Malibus, down significantly from 91 days one month earlier.

“People are choosing crossovers and trucks over passenger cars,” GM spokesperson Mary Padilla told the Kansas City Star. “People are changing the kind of car they want to drive.” Indeed, passenger car market share — at 41 percent in early 2016 — is down four points to 37 percent through the first five months of 2017.

Meanwhile, thanks to a 7-percent year-over-year sales jump, the U.S. SUV/crossover sector has seen its share of the overall industry’s volume rise to 41 percent from 38 percent in 2016’s first five months, essentially swapping positions with the passenger car market.

GM’s Fairfax facility was building more than just Malibus until last year. But when production of the second-generation Buick LaCrosse came to an end, the third-generation Buick LaCrosse’s production moved to Hamtramck, Michigan.

“It’s not a good place for us to be to have just the one product,” Vicky Hale, president of United Auto Workers Local 31, told the Kansas City Star. “Most plants have two or three products.”

Of all the locations in which General Motors builds vehicles in North America, only Bowling Green, Kentucky (Corvette); Lordstown, Ohio (Cruze); and the Malibu’s Kansas City factory serve a single nameplate.

[Images: General Motors]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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  • Akear Akear on Jun 18, 2017

    Read this old Truth about Cars article about GM interior woes. This eight year old article is still somewhat relevant today. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/03/inside-gm-mystery-of-crap-interiors-solved/

    • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Jun 18, 2017

      It is a BS. I do not believe for a second that GM exec had no idea about what kind of crap their company makes. It was a business decision, you have to make compromise to keep plants running. GM and other union shops were in deep disadvantage and only resolution for that was to declare bankruptcy what eventually happened. Ford simply had more organic relationship with unions to resolve problem by peaceful means after things get scary enough.

  • Buickman Buickman on Jun 19, 2017

    once more the marketing kills a car.

    • Gtem Gtem on Jun 19, 2017

      The "real people" ads are horrible. They do make for some fun spoofs though: youtu.be/xTfS0nAgfuE But I'd say it has more to do with the Malibu being "okay" in terms of features and performance (and in my experience a bit of a laggard in fuel economy) in a field of cars with stronger reputations for resale and reliability.

  • Dave M. The Outback alternates between decent design and goofy design every generation. 2005 was attractive, 2010 goofy. 2015 decent. 2020 good, but the ‘23 refresh hideous.Looking forward to the Outback hybrid in ‘26…..
  • Lorenzo Subaru had the ideal wagon - in 1995. The Legacy Outback was a straight two-box design with rear quarter and back windows you could see out of, and was available in brown with a 5-speed manual, as God and TTAC commenters intended. It's nice they're not raising prices, but when you've lost the plot, does it matter?
  • Bkojote Remember a month a go when Cleveland wanted to create a more walkable Cleveland and TTAC's 'BIG GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM' dumbest and dullest all collectively crapped their diapers? Here's the thing- look on any American highway and it's littered with people who don't /want/ to be driving or shouldn't be. Look at every Becky on her phone during the morning commute in her Tucson, look at every Brad aggro driving his 84 month loan GMC. Hell look how many drivers nowadays can't even operate a headlight switch. You expect these people to understand a stoplight? In my neighborhood alone 4 people have been rear ended at lights from someone on their phone. Distracted driving over the past 10 years has spiked, and it's only going to get worse unless Becky has an alternative, because no judge is going to pull her license when 'she needs it to get to work!' but heaven forbid she not check fb/tiktok for 40 minutes a day.
  • Scott Shouldn't the The Italian Minister for Business be criticizing The Milano for being too ugly to be Italian?Better use of resources doing that....
  • Steve Biro Frankly, while I can do without Eyesight and automatic start-stop, there is generally less B-S with Subarus in terms of design, utility and off-road chops than with many other brands. I just hope that when they adopt Toyota’s hybrid system, they’ll also use Toyota’s eCVT.