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Published: Saturday, 12/2/2000

Daimler to idle Toledo Jeep again this month

FROM BLADE STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

For the first time this year, part of DaimlerChrysler AG's local machining plant will join a number of factories forced into unplanned shutdowns this month because of slow U.S. sales, including Toledo Jeep Assembly.

Sales of Chrysler-unit vehicles fell 5 per cent nationwide last month when compared to a year ago to 184,065, while sales of Toledo-made Jeep Wranglers plunged 35 per cent and Cherokees dropped 16 per cent. DaimlerChrysler will idle two vehicle-assembly plants next week, one the following week, and Toledo Jeep and four others the week of Dec. 18, the automaker said.

The 2,200-employee Perrysburg Township machining plant, which makes steering columns and torque converters for nearly every product in the Chrysler unit, will lay off 120 people next week because of the assembly shutdowns. The machining plant's production schedule has not been determined for the rest of December, automaker spokesman Trevor Hale said yesterday.

“The industry is dealing with a highly competitive, saturated marketplace today,” Dieter Zetsche, president and chief executive of DaimlerChrysler's U.S. unit, said in a statement. “The combination of a softening market and an excess of inventory requires immediate action.”

The December shutdowns will cut about 50,000 vehicles from the Chrysler unit's inventories, and the automaker aims to end the year with a 70 to 75-day supply of vehicles, down from about 80 days at the start of November, said Jamie Jameson, Chrysler's vice president for sales and marketing operations.

Production at 5,000-employee Toledo Jeep was shut down this week along with two other assembly factories. The plant will resume making Cherokees and Wranglers on Monday.

Through November, U.S. sales of Cherokees declined 15 per cent compared to the first 11 months last year to 129,273; Wranglers declined 7 per cent to 77,711. Both sport utility vehicles had a record U.S. sales year in 1999.



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