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GM to increase production at Fort Wayne truck plant

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Detroit — General Motors Co. is increasing production at its Fort Wayne, Indiana, assembly plant in September to meet consumer demand for its pickups, according to a plant communication from Gary Duff, plant executive director. 

In the July 28-dated communication obtained by The Detroit News, Duff wrote that the plant would increase daily production levels of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra to build 1,000 more of them a month. GM would not say how many trucks per month they currently build there.

GM said Thursday it will begin building pickups in Ontario to meet strong demand.

The increase will provide additional jobs, Duff wrote, but he doesn't specify how many. Fort Wayne employs about 4,200 on three shifts.

The announcement comes a day before GM announces its second-quarter earnings when the Detroit automaker will likely highlight the success of its profit-rich trucks. 

With state economies shut down for much of the second quarter, GM's sales dipped 34% year over year, but demand for its trucks remained "resilient," the automaker said. Chevrolet Silverado light-duty sales came in at 89,465, down 18.6% from the same period a year ago. Silverado heavy-duty sales were off just 0.7% with 31,279 sales. GMC Sierra light-duty sales came in at 38,825, down 9.5% from last year. Sierra heavy-duty sales were up 7.6% with 14,999 sales.

Dealers said they shoot for about 90 days worth of supply, but that desired level is not available yet. Trucks especially are in “extremely short supply,” according to Cox Automotive, with the segment recording 69 days worth of supply as of July 6. General Motors Co.’s GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado had just 56 days of stock. Supply for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s Ram 1500 was at 76 days, and Ford Motor Co.’s F-150 was 89 days.

GM's inventories were hit hard first by a 40-day strike by the United Auto Workers in fall 2019 and then by the eight-week coronavirus shutdown from mid-March to mid-May.

GM spokesman Dan Flores confirmed the increase in production at Fort Wayne: "General Motors is increasing production at its Fort Wayne truck plant to help meet growing customer and dealer demand for its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickups."

Plant leadership is developing a staffing plan for how many additional jobs will be added. It's likely that GM could transfer employees from its Spring Hill, Tennessee plant, where GM recently cut the third shift over lack of demand for the product built there.

Meanwhile, GM is still struggling through absenteeism issues at plants. High levels of absent workers nearly pushed the automaker to suspend the third shift at the Wentzville, Missouri, mid-size truck plant, but instead the Detroit automaker came up with a plan to keep all three shifts operating.

khall@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @bykaleahall