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Isuzu line workers facing layoff

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JAMES P. LEUTE
December 21, 2007
— As it moves ahead with the planned sale of its medium-duty truck business to Navistar, General Motors said Thursday that it will continue its medium-duty truck relationship with Isuzu Motors after a pause in local production.

It will be several months before any of Isuzu’s U.S.-made trucks again roll off the assembly line at the GM plant in Janesville.


Because of slowing sales, Isuzu has decided to suspend production of the trucks it builds in Janesville under a contract with GM, said Mary Fanning, spokeswoman at the local plant.


Each day, 46 Janesville workers build 32 Isuzu W-Series trucks sold through GM’s medium-duty dealer network.


That ended Thursday, when workers at the Janesville plant left for their holiday break. Fanning said 11 of the 46 have transferred to the plant’s light-duty line and will report for work Jan. 2. The remaining 35 will be laid off until May 5, when they will return to an assembly line slowed from 32 jobs per day to 25.


“It was entirely Isuzu’s decision,” Fanning said. “We’re a contractor, but they’re still our employees.”


Nearly all of Isuzu’s vehicles sold in the United States are imported from Japan. The Tokyo-based Isuzu produces fewer than 5,000 U.S.-made trucks a year, all of them at the Janesville plant.


Earlier this month, Isuzu said it was putting on hold plans to build a plant in Birmingham, Ala., over concerns raised by the U.S. home loan crisis


“Our projections for the U.S. market down the road are not very good, and we can’t see sufficient volume,” Isuzu President Susumu Hosoi told the Kyodo News agency.


Isuzu’s truck sales in North America grew about 10 percent to 27,000 units in 2006, and the company had said it hoped to grow that number to 50,000 units.



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