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effort to reduce high vehicle inventories
Toledo workers who build the Jeep Liberty and Dodge Nitro are to head back to work Monday after a seven-week furlough, but they are facing additional days off because of sluggish vehicle sales.
Production will be suspended at Chrysler LLC's Toledo Jeep Assembly complex for four additional weeks through the end of the year, said Dan Henneman, plant chairman for United Auto Workers Local 12. The move will affect 2,200 employees at the complex along I-75 between Chrysler Drive and Stickney Avenue.
The weeks are Sept. 22, Oct. 27, and Nov. 17 and Nov. 24. Not affected is an adjoining plant that builds the Jeep Wrangler model, Mr. Henneman said.
The plant typically shuts down the week of July 4 to prepare for changeover to the next year's model. But this year, executives added six weeks to the shutdown because of lagging sales.
"It's disappointing," Mr. Henneman said. The union had hoped that the longer-than-usual summer furlough would reduce the number of unsold vehicles enough that normal operations could be maintained through 2008.
Supplies of the Jeep Liberty and Dodge Nitro increased even though the Toledo factory wasn't making them. Chrysler had a 168-day supply of the Liberty models on Aug. 1, up from 130 days July 1, according to the industry publication Automotive News. The supply of Nitro models was 224 days - or 7 months - up from 143 days July 1. Manufacturers typically want no more than a 60-to-80-day supply of vehicles.
Chrysler spokesman Ed Saenz refused to confirm the development. "We don't disclose our schedule that far out because of schedule changes," he said.
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Meanwhile, Chrysler has decided to keep its requirement that all workers take the same two-week summer vacation. The company told employees by e-mail on Wednesday that the 2009 summer break will take place the weeks of July 13 and 20.
North American factories have traditionally shut down for a week or two in the summer as equipment is updated for new vehicle models, but this year was the first time that all employees, including salaried, were affected.
Chrysler has 63,627 employees.
- Gary T. Pakulski