Fiat Chrysler cutting minivan, car production in Canada

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is extending holiday break at its two Canadian plants to align production with demand.

The Italian-American automaker on Tuesday confirmed that assembly plants in Windsor and Brampton will be down from Jan. 3-6, a four-day extension to the Jan. 2 observation of New Year’s Day. The roughly 9,000 hourly workers at the plant, including more than 5,600 in Windsor, will be on temporary layoff.

The Brampton Assembly halt may not come as a surprise to some, as it produces the Dodge Charger and Challenger as well as the Chrysler 300 for Fiat Chrysler — all large cars that have experienced flattening sales.

But Windsor Assembly produces the automaker’s minivans, including the all-new Chrysler Pacifica that began production in February. Tim Kuniskis, head of Fiat Chrysler-North America passenger car brands, recently said the company has been happy with the vehicle’s reception, which replaces the well-established Chrysler Town & Country minivan and is eventually expected to replace the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan.

The slight downtime comes as the automaker shifts its production in the United States away from cars to focus on more-profitable pickups and SUVs. The company already axed production of the compact Dodge Dart in September in Belvidere, Illinois, and the mid-size Chrysler 200 earlier this month in Sterling Heights.

Fiat Chrysler’s Belvidere Assembly will make its last Jeep Compass and Patriot compact SUVS this week to retool for the Jeep Cherokee mid-size SUV, which is moving from a plant in Toledo.

FCA US spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said the company is “not confirming the length of the downtime at Belvidere” or the “timing on build out of Cherokee at Toledo.”

Representatives with the United Auto Workers union were not immediately available.

Fiat Chrysler is far from alone with the production downtown to start the year, as sales flatten out and consumer preference moves toward utility vehicles such as crossovers and pickups.

General Motors Co. confirmed on Monday that a total of five U.S. assembly plants will take downtime in January to deal with inflated car inventory. It also plans to cut shifts at certain plants.

The automaker will cut a second shift and nearly 1,300 jobs from its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant in March. Detroit-Hamtramck builds the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid electric, Cadillac CT6, Chevrolet Impala and Buick LaCrosse.

The Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant, which is losing its third shift next month, will halt production for two weeks in January. GM’s Bowling Green Assembly Plant also will go down for a week in January. And the Lordstown Assembly Plant, which also is losing its third shift next month, is slated to be down for a week.

GM builds the Chevrolet Camaro and the Cadillac ATS and CTS in Lansing; the Chevrolet Corvette in Bowling Green; and the Chevrolet Cruze at Lordstown.

Ford Motor Co., which believes U.S. auto sales have plateaued, has taken action over the past year and a half to trim inventory by cutting shifts and production. It eliminated a shift at its small-car Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne in June 2015 and has announced downtime at several plants this fall to trim inventories on cars, trucks and SUVs.

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Twitter: @MikeWayland

Detroit News staff writer Melissa Burden contributed