DETROIT – Brisk sales of pickups and SUVs are causing the Detroit Three to eliminate or shorten their traditional two-week summer shutdown at many U.S. plants.
This year, Chrysler workers will be on the job the next two weeks at four assembly plants, while Ford will idle at least four plants for only one week. General Motors will keep about one-third of its plants running.
Historically, automakers halt production for the first two weeks in July to prepare for model year changeovers.
GM, Ford and Chrysler closed more than two dozen plants during the economic crisis of 2008 and 2009. Now, with cars and trucks rising to levels not seen since 2007, there is little slack in their manufacturing networks.
“Today, plant downtime scheduling is driven by specific vehicle life cycles and market demand,” said GM spokesman Bill Grotz. “This approach gives us more flexibility and enables quicker response to market conditions.”
At GM, summer shutdowns vary by timing of new or refreshed models. Several of the plants Ford and Chrysler will keep open make pickups or SUVs.
At GM’s engine plant in the Town of Tonawanda, the Generation V engine production line will continue operating through the two-week shutdown, said Mary Ann Brown, a GM spokeswoman. The plant’s two-week shutdown period began this week. The Generation V engines are built for products including the Chevrolet Corvette, Silverado and Sierra.
Chrysler’s U.S. sales have increased 12 percent over the first half of this year, more than the overall industry’s 4 percent increase, putting pressure on the company to meet demand.
“I think our plants are doing a good job of keeping up,” said Reid Bigland, Chrysler’s U.S. sales chief. “But they are able to keep up by doing things like shortening summer shutdowns, working some overtime.”
In addition to four assembly plants, Chrysler will operate all its engine and transmission plants throughout the next two weeks, except for Indiana Transmission Plant II in Kokomo, Ind.
The assembly plants that will operate without interruption are Jefferson North Assembly in Detroit; Sterling Heights, Mich.; and Saltillo and Toluca, Mexico.
Many of Ford’s plants will shut down for maintenance this week and next, said spokeswoman Kristina Adamski.
But demand for trucks, specifically the F-Series pickups and Ford Explorer and Escape utility vehicles, requires Ford to keep four assembly plants and seven powertrain and stamping plants running for one week. Ford’s stamping plant in Hamburg is not among those operating during the shutdown period.
Ford’s Dearborn, Mich., truck plant will shut down from Aug. 25 to Sept. 21 to retool for the 2015 F-150, which features an aluminum body.
News Business reporter Matt Glynn contributed to this report.