General Motors to Idle Most Plants for About a Month

Related article: GM Encouraged By White House Considering TARP, Rescue Options

DETROIT – The General Motors Corporation said Friday that it would idle all of its assembly plants in the United States and Canada for at least part of the first quarter and build 250,000 fewer cars and trucks than it had planned.

At G.M., many plants will close for about a month in one of the broadest shutdowns in the automaker’s history. The closures will occur at various times during the quarter, though some will extend the annual Christmas holiday through January.

G.M. now expects to build about 60 percent fewer vehicles in the first quarter, compared with the 885,000 it made in the same period of 2008.

“Every plant in North America has some type of action related to it,” a G.M. spokesman, Tony Sapienza, said. “This is an utter collapse of the market, and it’s not specific to G.M. or to U.S. automakers. People just aren’t buying cars right now.”

But G.M., which has warned that it may run out of money unless it can borrow about $10 billion from the federal government this month, has suffered more than most of its rivals. G.M.’s sales were down 43 percent in October and November, compared with a 34 percent decline for the industry over all.

The only major automaker that has performed worse is Chrysler.

Meanwhile, Honda announced that it would reduce North American production from January through March by 119,000 vehicles.

Honda now plans to build 1.29 million vehicles in its fiscal year ending March 31, down from earlier projections of 1.47 million, as the recession and tight credit markets send sales plummeting to their lowest level in 25 years.

A message posted Friday on the Web site of United Automobile Workers union Local 276 in Arlington, Tex., told members that they would be off work from Dec. 23 until Jan. 20, and again during one week in March. The message from the local’s president, Enrique Flores Jr., expressed disappointment that the Senate rejected legislation Thursday to lend the Detroit automakers money, but urged the workers in Arlington, who build full-size sport utility vehicles, to remain hopeful.

“Each of you knows that you have no control over the purchasing decisions of the public,” Mr. Flores wrote. “Each of you knows that you have no control over the banks and whether or not they will loan customers money to buy the products we produce.”

The only G.M. plant in the United States or Canada not affected by Friday’s announcement is in Lordstown, Ohio. Mr. Sapienza said Lordstown already had two weeks of down time scheduled in January. Three plants in Mexico will also be idled.

Published: December 12, 2008

Source: The New York Times

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