GM to ax shift at Chevy Malibu plant amid slow sales

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

General Motors Co. in late September will cut the third shift at its Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Kansas, amid slowing passenger car sales.

The factory is the fifth assembly plant since November that GM has announced would shed shifts, affecting thousands of hourly and salaried workers. GM has cut the third shifts at car factories including at Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant and the Lordstown Assembly Plant in Ohio, and the second shift at the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant. GM also cut the third shift at its Lansing Delta Township SUV plant in May, but said it plans to bring back about 500 jobs to that facility in the first quarter next year.

The automaker on Friday informed workers at Fairfax who build the Chevrolet Malibu midsize sedan, a GM spokesman said. The Detroit automaker said 1,000 of the plant’s about 3,000 hourly and salaried employees are expected to be affected.

“Lower demand for passenger cars across the industry has caused us to adjust production of some models,” GM said in a statement. “Beginning in late September, Fairfax Assembly will operate on two production shifts. We believe the steps we are taking will provide the smallest impact on employment at the plant going forward.”

The Fairfax plant already has five weeks of plant downtime scheduled beginning in late June to help quell inventory. The plant also had a temporary layoff from May 22 through June 4.

Sales of the Malibu have fallen nearly 30 percent this year through May compared to the same five months last year. Consumers continue to gravitate toward crossovers, SUVs and trucks in favor of sedans. GM had 67 days of stock for its Malibu at the end of May, according to Autodata Corp.

The Fairfax plant is expected to be the home of the all-new Cadillac XT4 crossover, analysts say. They believe the XT4 will launch production in the second half of 2018 and that it could sell about 25,000 to 30,000 vehicles a year.

GM has not confirmed where that crossover would be built.

Local unions confirmed last week that the Lordstown plant would be idled for five weeks beginning this week through the week of July 17. Plant workers build the compact Chevrolet Cruze sedan.

In April, GM North America President Alan Batey told reporters that the company would shutter some U.S. plants for a combined total of 10 weeks in the second half of 2017 to cut inventory levels. Both Fairfax and Lordstown were expected to be affected, plus the Fort Wayne Assembly Plant in Roanoke, Indiana. That GM truck plant is slated to be down for several weeks for work related to a launch of a new full-size pickup.

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