2021 Auto News General Motors

GM stops production at highly profitable pickup plant in Fort Wayne, 3 others

Credits: www.freep.com

As severe weather continues to hammer the Midwest and the Northeast on Tuesday, General Motors halted production at its highly profitable pickup plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana, along with three other plants, affecting about 4,800 workers.

The weather is hitting the auto industry hard as various carmakers must stop production due to arctic temperatures, snow and ice that are making travel dangerous for workers and roads impassible for suppliers to deliver parts. In some cases, subzero temperatures, ice or wind could impede the factory’s ability to operate.

GM’s move to idle the first shift at Fort Wayne, where it builds its hot-selling Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra light-duty pickups, comes a day after GM suspended production at another critical plant, in Arlington, Texas, where it builds full-size SUVs. The first shift at Arlington Assembly and two other GM plants remained idled Tuesday because of the weather.

Industry impact

Several other automakers also shuttered production Tuesday. Here are a few, including Stellantis, formerly known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

“We are continuing to work through weather-related issues,” said Kaileen Connelly, Stellantis spokeswoman in an email to the Free Press. “Due to a local emergency in Lucas County, Ohio, production on the day shift at the Toledo Assembly Complex today has been suspended.”

Connelly said second shift at the Toledo facility will run normally and all other Stellantis plants are running.

Ford Motor Co. has shut down production of its highly profitable 2021 F-150 pickups and Transit Vans for a full week in Kansas City, Missouri, citing cold temperatures hindering the availability of natural gas. 

“To ensure we minimize our use of natural gas that is critical to heat people’s homes, we have decided to cancel operations,” said Kelli Felker, global manufacturing and labor communications manager, on Monday.

Cabs for the new aluminum-alloy body Ford F-150 truck move through the body shop at the company's Kansas City Assembly Plant in March 2015 in Claycomo, Mo.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing builds the Tundra and Tacoma pickups in San Antonio. Toyota has idled first shift production there, too, for a second day, said Kelly Stefanich, Toyota spokeswoman. Toyota also opted to shut down some production at several other U.S. plants in Kentucky, Mississippi, Indiana and an engine plant in West Virginia.

“For today, we’re down first shift only,” Stefanich told the Free Press. “We’ll determine the second shift based on weather conditions this afternoon.”

Nissan North America said first and second shift production at all four of its U.S. manufacturing facilities has been temporarily suspended for the second day in a row. Nissan has a plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, where it builds six vehicles and several engines, employing 6,700 workers. It, along with three other facilities in Tennessee and Mississippi, are shut down for the morning and afternoon shifts.

“We will continue to monitor the forecasts and make a call on night shift,” said Lloryn Love-Carter, Nissan spokeswoman.

A spokesman for Hyundai said there has been no impact at Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama plant from the weather. 

GM’s profit plants

GM spokesman David Barnas said the automaker will make up any lost production due to the weather-related shutdowns once conditions clear and production can resume to normal.

Here are the plants where GM has halted production Tuesday:

  • Fort Wayne Assembly in Indiana: First and second shifts halted. About 1,430 workers per shift who build the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra light-duty pickups.
  • Arlington Assembly in Texas: First and second shifts halted. About 1,650 workers per shift build the Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban full-size SUVs
  • Spring Hill Assembly in Tennessee: First and second shifts halted. About 1,100 workers per shift who build the Cadillac XT5, XT6 and GMC Acadia midsize SUVs. It also builds several engines there, including ones used in GM’s full-size pickups and full-size SUVs.
  • Bowling Green Assembly in Kentucky: First and second shifts halted. About 700 workers per shift build the Corvette. 

On Monday, GM idled Wentzville Assembly in Missouri, where it builds its midsize pickups and full-size vans. That plant was running normally Tuesday.

In Indiana, the storm left more than 9 inches of snow in some parts of the state, with totals expected to go up. The temperature was 13 degrees in Indianapolis on Tuesday morning. Reports state that nearly every county was under some form of travel advisory with snow leaving most roads dangerous.

Barnas said the automaker will make the call on the second shift status later depending on weather conditions.

Texas troubles

Arlington Assembly in Texas enters its second day of lost production. GM first idled production there on Sunday night, taking down the third shift, which started at 10 p.m..

The Lone Star state is being hammered by an arctic blast with subzero temperatures not seen in decades. It has had a downpour of snow and massive power outages as a result.

Body assembly of the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe within the new, 1-million-square-foot body shop at GM’s Arlington Assembly plant.

A worker at Arlington, who asked to not be identified because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said he has been without electricity in his home for days. 

“Right now it’s 1 degree outside,” the worker said Tuesday morning. “Electric is still out and I don’t know when that will be back on … over 24 hours without electricity. We aren’t used to this kind of cold.”

The weather is proving deadly. Early Tuesday, a woman and a girl died in Houston from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning at a home without electricity when a car was running in an attached garage, USA Today reported. The storm could also be to blame for the deaths of two men found along Houston-area roadways, the article stated.