Put Away the Sunscreen: Chrysler Nixes Traditional Summer Shut-Down for Some Plants

Automotive production plants frequently close during the summer to give workers time to rest, engineers time to retool or upgrade plants, and dealers time to normalize their inventories. If you’re Chrysler, however, that might not be the case: the company is keeping four plants open through the summer to keep up with rising demand.

Chrysler will keep four plants — Windsor, Ontario, Brampton, Ontario, Warren, Michigan, and Toledo (North), Ohio — closed for the standard two weeks, while keeping six others open for at least one of two weeks. Both the Sterling Heights, Michigan and Saltillo, Mexico complexes will be open for one week, while the Detroit, Michigan (Jefferson North), Belvidere, Illinois, Toluca, Mexico, and Toledo (Supplier Park), Ohio plants will stay open.

There are a few reasons why Chrysler’s eliminating the traditional shutdown. In the case of the Belvidere, Illinois plant, it’ll need to work at full strength this summer to coincide with the debut of the 2013 Dodge Dart, which goes on sale in the U.S. this summer.

For the other plants that will stay open, the task is simple: keep making cars as fast as consumers will purchase them. Sales of Chrysler Group products were up 26 percent last year and 33 percent so far in 2012, so inventories of many products are dwindling.

Inventories of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango — both products of the Jefferson North facility — may have been between 53 and 58 days at the beginning of last month, but that’s in the face of very high sales. The Grand Cherokee was up 51 percent in 2011, and the new-for-2011 Durango sold some 51,697 units last year. The same can be said of the Toledo Supplier Park plant in Ohio, as Jeep Wrangler sales were up 30 percent last year and 31 percent thus far in 2012. The Wrangler currently has a 70-day supply, which is roughly the industry average.

With Fiat 500 sales steadily rising, inventories are steadily shrinking. Fiat currently has a 71-day supply of the 500, down from the infamous half-year level it reached last year. The Dodge Journey, which is produced at the same plant complex in Toluca, Mexico, presently holds a 51-day supply. Toluca assembly lines, therefore, will not shut down this summer.

Supplies of the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger, meanwhile, are the lowest of the Chrysler Group’s products: 38 and 28 days, respectively. The plant responsible for building both lines – located in Sterling Heights, Michigan — will open for one week and close the week of June 25th.

As for Chrysler’s Canadian plants, a last-minute change in summer shutdown scheduling would be against CAW-Chrysler Group collective bargaining agreement. The contract stipulates not only that Canadian plants have two-week shutdowns every summer, but also that Chrysler must notify the plants of when the shutdowns will occur by the end of March. CAW representatives say they were not approached by Chrysler to change this, so production of the Chrysler 300 and Town and Country, Dodge Charger, Challenger, and Grand Caravan, and Ram Cargo Van will stop for two weeks this July.

Sources: Chrysler, Automotive News (Subscription required)

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