Chrysler moves up summer plant shutdowns to June

AP News
Posted: May 13, 2011 12:00 PM
Chrysler moves up summer plant shutdowns to June

Chrysler is moving the traditional summer shutdown of three U.S. factories from July to June due to parts shortages from the earthquake in Japan, but it said Friday that it doesn't expect that to affect the number of models it had planned to deliver.

By moving the shutdown weeks forward, Chrysler gives parts suppliers more time to get the plants back on line or come up with other alternatives to make the parts, said Chrysler Group LLC spokeswoman Jodi Tinson.

"There was some risk that toward the end of May or in June that we could experience production disruptions," she said. "This is a way to mitigate that and help our suppliers."

Tinson would not say what parts are in short supply, although CEO Sergio Marchionne has said the delivery of electronic components had been slowed by the earthquake.

The changes affect a pickup truck plant in Warren, Mich., near Detroit; the Toledo, Ohio, North assembly plant, which will be idled the weeks of June 20 and 27. Both plants had been scheduled to close the weeks of July 11 and 18. The Toledo Supplier Park parts and assembly operation will close the week of June 20 instead of July 11.

Production has been hampered for nearly all automakers because of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that hit northern Japan. The quake damaged parts supply plants or knocked out electricity, and some parts are made only in Japan. Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. have been hit the hardest, but their factories are starting to move back toward normal production.

The Warren plant makes the Ram 1500 and Dakota pickup trucks, while Toledo North makes the Jeep Liberty and Dodge Nitro small sport utility vehicles. The Toledo Supplier Park factory makes chassis and body parts for the Jeep Wrangler, which also is assembled there.

At the end of April, Chrysler had a 54-day supply of Nitros, 65 days of the Liberty, 109 days of Wrangler, 46 days of the Dakota, and 123 days' supply of the Ram, according to Ward's AutoInfoBank. Automakers say a 60-day supply is optimal.

Chrysler and other automakers have had to stop taking orders for certain paint colors because a specialized pigment produced in Japan is not available.

Even with the shutdowns pulled forward, Chrysler and its Detroit counterparts have been able to avoid widespread production problems that have hit Japan-based automakers. Tinson said parts suppliers have fared better than expected and the company has managed its existing parts inventory well.

Chrysler also said its other plants will have their normal summer shutdowns in July and August.

The change in Chrysler's shutdown weeks was reported Thursday by the Detroit Free Press.