GM to temporarily shut 13 plants

DETROIT - General Motors Corp. said Thursday it will temporarily close 13 assembly plants in the U.S. and Mexico - some for more than two months - as it tries to pare back its bloated inventory due to slumping sales.

The company said in a statement that the closures will begin in May. Shutdown weeks vary by factory, but some will be closed for nine or 10 weeks.

GM said the shutdowns will help control high dealer inventories and bring production in line with sales. The company plans to cut production by 190,000 vehicles.

The troubled automaker has 22 assembly plants in North America. Dozens of other factories stamp metal parts and build engines and transmissions, and they also will see temporary closures.

GM normally shuts down its assembly plants for two weeks each summer to prepare for the new model year, but assembly plants that will see additional down weeks are in Arlington, Texas; Bowling Green, Ky.; Detroit-Hamtramck, Mich.; Flint, Mich.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Lansing, Mich.; Lordstown, Ohio; Pontiac, Mich.; Shreveport, La.; Spring Hill, Tenn.; Wilmington, Del.; Wentzville, Mo.; and Silao, Mexico.

The longest shutdown is 10 weeks at Fort Wayne, which makes the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks.

The Associated Press first reported Wednesday that GM planned to close most of its factories for up to nine weeks.

GM North America President Troy Clarke said in the statement that the company has been controlling inventories since the first of the year, but it needs to do more.

'While sales have been performing at or close to our plan estimates, and dealer inventories have been reduced accordingly, we want to more closely align inventories with even more conservative market assumptions,' he said.

The move is a result of slumping sales, but some analysts and dealers fear the plant closings could further scare car buyers already made nervous by talk of a GM bankruptcy.

GM also said Thursday that it has been negotiating with its former parts arm, Delphi Corp., to make sure the supply of parts continues during Delphi's bankruptcy case. GM said it has proposed 'fair and reasonable' terms that have been rejected by Delphi and its lenders.

'Without successful resolution of this dispute, it is General Motors' view that Delphi or its lenders could force GM into an uncontrolled shutdown with severe negative consequences for the U.S. automotive industry,' GM's statement said.

GM workers whose plants are temporarily closed would still get most of their pay, because their United Auto Workers union contract requires the company to make up much of the difference between state unemployment benefits and their wages.

The shutdown could be catastrophic to many auto parts suppliers that already are near bankruptcy due to previous production cuts. During the shutdown, suppliers couldn't ship parts to GM and would lose critical revenue.