Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chrysler to close factory, cut shift at another

Chrysler to close factory, cut shift at another
Tom Krisher / Associated Press
DETROIT -- Chrysler LLC says it will eliminate one shift at a Toledo, Ohio, Jeep plant and accelerate the closure of its sport utility vehicle factory in Newark, Del., because of the slowing global economy and a continuing shift toward smaller vehicles.

About 825 workers at the Toledo North Assembly Plant will be laid off indefinitely as of Dec. 31. The Newark closure also will be effective at the end of the year and affect about 1,000 jobs, the company said in a news release.

The Toledo factory makes the Dodge Nitro and Jeep Liberty. Both have been selling slowly this year due to high gas prices and a slowing U.S. economy.

The Newark plant makes the slow-selling Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen sport utility vehicles. It originally was expected to close at the end of 2009.

Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chrysler said in a statement that the changes will adjust inventory to better match consumer demand.

"The markets are facing unprecedented turmoil and we are in a time of historic change in the auto industry," Frank Ewasyshyn, Chrysler's executive vice president of manufacturing, said. "These tough, but necessary steps are vital to our long-term viability."

The company said it would work with the United Auto Workers union to handle the layoffs in a "socially responsible manner."

The company in the past has offered buyout and early retirement programs to workers affected by plant slowdowns and closures.

Chrysler spokesman Ed Saenz said the Toledo North plant now is operating on two shifts. It has a total of 2,100 employees, 1,800 of whom are blue-collar.

Neither of its vehicles is selling well. Through the first nine months of the year, Chrysler sold 30,071 Nitros -- 46 percent fewer than the same time last year. Liberty sales of 54,293 were off 21 percent through September, according to Autodata Corp.

The Newark plant has been running on one shift since July of 2006. The company announced its intent to shut the factory down in February of 2007. It has total employment of about 1,000, Chrysler said.

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