General Motors to Keep Plants Humming Through Summer Shutdown Period

The arrival of summer typically brings a temporary shutdown of many U.S. auto factories to give workers a break and give the companies a chance to perform maintenance on the lines. But this year, with demand for new vehicles on the uptick, GM is forgoing shutdowns at most of its assembly plants, the Detroit-based automaker said Thursday.

Nine of its 11 assembly plants will continue to operate during the company's traditional shutdown period from June 28 to July 9, GM said in statement. Most of GM's U.S. stamping and powertrain plants will also work to support assembly operations. The decision is expected to generate up to 56,000 additional vehicles, the company said.

"This move will help buyers waiting for high-demand products such as the Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Traverse, and GMC Acadia," said Mark Reuss, president of GM North America. The newly redesigned or introduced vehicles have helped propel sales in recent months. Demand for the LaCrosse sedan, for example, rose nearly 200% last month compared to a year ago, GM has reported.

New UAW Contract Gives GM More Flexibility

Historically, GM said, summer shutdowns were used by automakers to complete the annual model changeover, when year-to-year styling changes were the norm for Detroit. But during the last 20 years, the two-week shutdown has evolved, allowing the domestic auto industry to support maintenance operations and enable employees to use their vacation weeks without interrupting overall productivity.

The company's new contract with the UAW, a result of GM's descent into bankruptcy last year, gives the company greater say in determining when vacation time is taken, and to keep plants up and running to keep pace with demand. In some circumstances, when downtime isn't possible because of high demand, the company can hire temporary employees to provide vacation coverage, GM said.

The assembly plants staying open are: Arlington, Texas; Bowling Green, Ky.; Kansas City, Kan.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Wentzville, Mo.; and four plants in Michigan: Hamtramck, Lansing, Grand River and Flint.

In related news, Toyota Motor (TM) said earlier Thursday it is resuming construction of a plant in Mississippi that will soon hire some 2,000 workers. The plant is expected to be producing compact Corolla sedans for the U.S. market by the fall of 2011.

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