By Tom Krisher
AP Auto Writer
DETROIT — General Motors is extending the normal two-week summer shutdown for at least two U.S. car factories because of slumping sedan sales.
Union officials say the Lordstown, Ohio, plant near Cleveland and the Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kan., will close for as many as five weeks in June and July. The company confirmed that some car factories would be shut down longer than usual but would not give details. Lordstown makes the Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan, while Fairfax builds the Chevrolet Malibu midsize car.
The additional shutdowns come as automakers struggle to deal with a shrinking U.S. market dramatically shifting away from cars toward trucks and SUVs. Some are continuing to produce cars and selling them to rental car companies or offering big discounts to individual buyers, while others are cutting production. Through May, U.S. car sales were down 11 percent while truck and SUV sales rose nearly 5 percent, according to Autodata Corp.
Also, overall demand for vehicles is slowing after seven years of growth. Total U.S. sales are down 2 percent through May and many analysts predict full-year sales will slow to 17.2 million, compared with last year’s record of 17.5 million.
Robert Morales, president of a United Auto Workers union local at the Lordstown factory, says the plant will stop production for the last two weeks in June and another three weeks in July.
The Lordstown plant has about 3,000 hourly and salaried workers. Last year GM suspended the third shift at the plant indefinitely as demand dropped. The Fairfax plant has about 3,500 workers.
It was unclear whether other GM plants will see extended summer shutdowns, which normally happen over the July 4 holiday as factories switch to the next model year.
Spokesman Jim Cain wouldn’t comment on shutdown specifics. He did say GM full-size pickup truck factories also would have longer-than-normal summer shutdowns because they’re switching to an all new truck for the 2018 model year.