GM, Fiat Chrysler plants impacted by Nexteer strike

Melissa Burden, and Michael Wayland

A 20-hour strike by more than 3,200 Nexteer Automotive workers near Saginaw on Tuesday had ripple effects on assembly plants at General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV faster than some expected.

GM confirmed that the third and first shifts at its pickup plant in Indiana on Wednesday were sent home early, and the second shift was canceled because of parts shortages. Fiat Chrysler ran shortened first shifts Wednesday at Toledo North (Ohio) and Brampton (Ontario) assembly plants.

GM spokesman Klaus-Peter Martin said that the loss of the shift will be made up at some point in the future. Third-shift employees Wednesday evening were expected to report to work at the Fort Wayne plant.

“A strike at Nexteer’s UAW-represented manufacturing operation in Saginaw, Michigan has caused minor losses of production at GM plants in North America,” he said in a statement. “Our goal is to recover lost production when possible.”

Martin would not disclose the financial impact of the lost production at GM due to the parts shortage. He said no shifts were disrupted Tuesday at GM plants.

Fiat Chrysler, in a statement to The Detroit News, said production at both plants will resume for their second shifts. Toledo North produces the Jeep Cherokee; Brampton produces the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger.

Nexteer, according to its 2104 annual report, supplies rack-assist electronic power steering systems for the Ram 1500, Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger as well as parts for other vehicles.

GM is Nexteer’s largest customer and relies on the auto supplier based in Saginaw County’s Buena Vista Township for steering and chassis parts for several vehicles. Nexteer parts are used on GM’s highly profitable pickups, including the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, and several other vehicles such as crossovers and the Chevrolet Impala.

Fort Wayne Assembly in Roanoke, Indiana, runs on three shifts and employs about 3,900. Workers there build double and regular cab Silverado and Sierra light-duty and heavy-duty trucks. The plant typically builds about 1,500 trucks a day.

Late Tuesday, UAW Local 699, which represents more than 3,200 hourly workers at Nexteer, announced it had reached a new tentative agreement with the supplier. The move likely averted costly plant shutdowns for GM and other automakers that could have happened within days because of just-in-time parts delivery, an industry analyst told The News.

Nexteer employees walked off the job around midnight Tuesday, after workers overwhelmingly voted down a tentative agreement reached with the company by 97 percent. The company makes electronic power steering systems, hydraulic steering systems, steering columns and driveline parts globally and in addition to GM supplies Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Ford Motor Co., BMW, PSA Peugeot Citroen, Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen AG.

A Ford spokeswoman said there was no production impact for the Dearborn-based automaker.

The union’s membership still must ratify the new tentative agreement. If they do not, options likely include another strike or extending the current contract to return to negotiations.

Nexteer is owned by China-based Pacific Century Motors, but formerly was part of GM.

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Detroit News Staff Writer Michael Martinez contributed.