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Auto Outlook: Four-cylinder engines back, long summer for autoworkers


The Detroit Three automakers are scaling back their annual summer production shutdowns to keep up with demand for top-selling models.

General Motors, Ford and Chrysler usually idle plants for re-tooling and maintenance in July, but for the second consecutive year Ford is cutting back shutdowns in Chicago; Louisville, Ky.; Wayne, Mich.; Oakville, Ontario.; and Cuautilan and Hermosilo, Mexico, from two weeks to one week at North American plants that assemble the Explorer, Fusion and F-series pickups.

Ford said the extra week’s production would boost car and light-truck production by 40,000 vehicles and that autoworkers can make up their vacations later. Ford’s U.S. market share is up nearly a full point — to 16.3 percent – from April a year ago, Automotive News reported. Ford hopes to build an extra 200,000 vehicles this summer.

“To meet surging customer demand for our top-selling cars, utilities and trucks, we are continuing to run our North America facilities at full manned capacity,” said Jim Tetreault, Ford’s vice president in charge of North American manufacturing in a statement.

“Approximately 75 percent of our plants are running at a three-crew, three-shift or four-crew pattern in order to ensure we’re getting more of our products into dealerships.”

Even with the added production supplies of the popular midsize Ford Fusion are expected to be tight.

Ford hired more than 8,000 new employees last year and has announced plans to hire nearly 3,500 more this year.

Chrysler plans to keep three plants that assemble the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Durango and Viper sports car running all summer and will idle four other plants in Belvidere, Ill.; and Toluca and Saltillo, Mexico, for just one week. The Belvidere plant makes the compact Dodge Dart, which Chrysler views as key to increasing U.S. market share.

A Chrysler transmission plant in Kokomo, Ind., also will shut down for one week but all other engine and transmission plants plan to keep working through the summer.

General Motors Co. , which hasn’t had a companywide two-week summer shutdown since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009, plans to keep plants making the Cadillac ATS and CTS, and full-size SUVs and pickups producing all summer.

Other GM plants will be scheduled for summer shutdowns based on vehicle life cycles and market demand, a GM spokesman told The Detroit News.

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