General Motors to close or idle 12 more plants

By Kimberly S. Johnson

Associated Press

DETROIT — General Motors Corp. said Monday it will permanently close nine more plants and idle three others to trim production and labor costs under bankruptcy protection.

The closures will displace 18,000 to 20,000 GM employees, the company said.

Six of the plants are in GM’s home state of Michigan, which has already been hard-hit by job cuts in the auto industry.


GM’s assembly plant in Wilmington, Del., will close in July, followed by its Pontiac, Mich., pickup truck plant in October.

Assembly plants in Spring Hill, Tenn., and Orion Township, Mich., will end production this fall but remain on "standby," meaning workers can be called back should the company need to increase production. One of those plants may be retooled to produce a subcompact vehicle that GM had originally planned to build in China.

A plant shuttered in April in Janesville, Wis., will also get "standby" status and could be one of the plants to produce the small car, GM officials said.

The closings will bring GM’s U.S. factory count from to 34 by the end of 2010, compared to 47 at the end of 2008. The company will shutter an additional plant by the end of 2012.

Workers were notified of the plant closings Monday, and those slated to cease operation continued to churn out cars and trucks throughout the day, said Tim Lee, vice president of manufacturing for GM North America. When Chrysler filed for bankruptcy protection April 30, its plants went idle almost immediately, with workers leaving their shifts early.

"We’re running business as usual this morning," Lee said. "Our operations will be ongoing, we have customer orders to fill and great products to make."

Nearly all of General Motors’ plants were previously scheduled to shut down for up to 11 weeks this summer to cut costs and align production levels with the shrunken demand.

Todd Horton, editor of the newsletter at the Spring Hill factory’s United Auto Workers local, said the 2,500 employees got the news of the shutdown Monday morning. He said the Chevrolet Traverse crossover vehicle built there will be made in Lansing, Mich., instead.


Five GM powertrain plants, which make engines and transmissions, will close by December 2010. They are in Livonia, Flint and Ypsilanti Township, Mich.; Parma, Ohio; and Fredericksburg, Va.

Parts stamping plants in Indianapolis and Mansfield, Ohio, also will close starting next year. A stamping plant in Pontiac, Mich., will shut down production by December 2010 but remain in standby status.

In addition to the closures revealed Monday, a powertrain plant in Massena, N.Y., closed May 1, and GM previously announced the closure of a Grand Rapids, Mich., stamping plant, slated to shut down this month.

GM said it will also close service and parts warehouses in Boston, Jacksonville, Fla., and Columbus, Ohio, by the end of this year.

Lee said various factors went into the decision on which factories to shutter, such as their proximity to other plants, as it is more cost effective to have stamping plants near the assembly plants they feed.

"These big box stamping plants are somewhat of a relic of the past," Lee said.

The Shreveport, La., plant that makes Hummer SUVs, and GMC and Chevrolet pickups, will remain open, although GM is looking to sell of its Hummer brand. Lee said the plant’s fate could change based on what happens to Hummer.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said Troy Clarke, GM’s head of North American operations, informed him Sunday night that the Wilmington plant would close. GM has downsized the work force at the plant, which makes the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky, over several years. GM plans to sell off Saturn and phase out its Pontiac line.


"GM has sent many strong signals for the past four years that it was leaning toward closing this plant," said the governor in a statement. "But that does not make this news any less unfortunate or soften its impact on the workers and their families."

Officials will deploy teams of workers from the state departments of labor and health and social services to help workers with training and government assistance, said the governor’s spokesman, Joe Rogalsky said.

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