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GM to speed cutbacks in pickup truck factory

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sales are slow for the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors Corp. will speed up production cuts at a pickup truck factory in Flint that had been closed due to a strike at a parts supply company.

GM spokesman Tony Sapienza said Tuesday it’s unclear when the Flint plant will restart production. When it does, GM will cut the third shift due to slow sales of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra models.

The Flint factory was among about 30 GM factories affected by a nearly three-month strike at American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc. United Auto Workers voted Thursday to approve a tentative agreement and return to work, and American Axle began cranking up its factories on Tuesday.

Sapienza said the Flint plant, which had been idled since Feb. 29, would resume production on two shifts as soon as parts start flowing from American Axle.

“We’re not going to go to a third shift when we resume,” he said Tuesday.

Third-shift workers will report to the factory but be given other duties, he said.

The company announced in April it would cut the third shift in Flint as of July 14.

About 3,600 American Axle workers in Michigan and New York went on strike Feb. 26 in a dispute over deep wage and benefit cuts that the company wanted to make. The strike caused a parts shortage that crippled GM production of pickups and large SUVs. American Axle workers ratified a new four-year contract last week.

GM also announced in April that it would cut shifts at a Pontiac pickup truck plant and a Janesville, Wis.., SUV factory as of July 14.

Sapienza would not say if those cuts will be accelerated or if any other production cuts would be made. The Janesville plant, which makes the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban and GMC Yukon large SUVs, resumed production on two shifts as of Tuesday.

A date for the Pontiac pickup plant to resume production has not yet been set, Sapienza said.

No date has been set to restore any of the shift cuts, Sapienza said.

Many other GM plants had cut shifts or slowed production due to the American Axle strike. American Axle makes axles, drive shafts and stabilizer bars for GM’s larger truck-based vehicles. The Detroit supplier gets 80 percent of its business from GM.

Sapienza said those cuts should come to an end gradually as American Axle begins shipping parts from all its plants again.

“Now it’s just a matter of getting the system back, full, running as it should,” he said.

American Axle spokeswoman Renee Rogers said even though the strike has ended, the company still has workers on layoff as it ramps up its plants. Some of the layoffs, though, are due to reduced demand from customers.

“We adjust our work force up and down to meet the needs of our customers,” she said Tuesday. “As you know, SUVs and trucks aren’t selling so well, so obviously we are going to have some adjustments.”