Analysts: Janesville's GM plant among most vulnerable
By TOM KRISHER
AP Auto Writer
Some auto industry analysts say the Janesville plant is among the most vulnerable as General Motors prepares to announce a restructuring plan Tuesday morning.
As GM prepares for its annual shareholders meeting on Tuesday, workers across the country are worried that the next round of the company’s restructuring could cost them jobs or even their factories.
GM executives are expected to announce the moves right before the meeting in Wilmington, Del., to deal with an evaporating pickup truck and sport utility vehicle market. It likely will mean shift cuts or even closures of some factories that make truck-based vehicles.
GM Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner’s management team is looking at cuts among the factories that make pickups and SUVs. GM makes full-size pickups in Flint and Pontiac; Fort Wayne, Ind.; and Oshawa, Ontario.
Big SUVs are made in Arlington, Texas; Silao, Mexico, and Janesville, while mid-sized SUVs are made in Moraine, Ohio, near Dayton. The company also makes mid-size pickups in Shreveport, La.
Among the factories most vulnerable are Janesville and Moraine, according to some industry analysts. Greg Gardner, an analyst with the Oliver Wyman Group, said both are a distance from parts suppliers. Plants in Texas and Mexico can easily satisfy demand for big SUVs, while GM may stop building mid-size SUVs in a few years, Gardner said.
Janesville is an older plant that builds the same product as the one in Arlington, Gardner said, and many of GM’s large-SUV parts come from nearby Mexico.
“It would be hard to justify closing Arlington,” said Gardner.
GM has not announced a new product for Moraine, and the company may also reduce full-size pickup truck capacity because it now has four factories making the vehicles.
“That’s a lot of capacity, given the current demand for those trucks,” Gardner said.
GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson on Monday would not say what moves the company would make, though GM officials previously have said that salaried job cuts are unlikely.
The restructuring concerns United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger, whose union gave unprecedented concessions to GM and other U.S.-based automakers during contract talks last year to help them reorganize and become profitable again.
Gettelfinger, in an interview with The Associated Press, said there’s little the union can do about the latest changes at GM and Ford Motor Co., except hunker down and survive until the economy improves.
GM may also furlough entire shifts of workers at some truck factories and may move them to car plants as it restructures to adjust to a rapidly changing U.S. market brought on by $4 per gallon gasoline.