The U.S. automotive sales slump worked its way to Janesville, Wis., Monday (Oct. 13) when General Motors Corp. told workers that it would stop making sport utility vehicles at a factory there in December.
The Associated Press reported that GM spokesman Chris Lee said SUV production at the plant, with 1,200 workers represented by the United Auto Workers, will end Dec. 23, earlier than GM had expected.
The Janesville plant also has a small- to medium-duty truck production line with 35 to 50 workers. They will keep working until they have filled an order for Isuzu Motors Ltd., which should take the plant through May or June, Lee said. Then the plant “will cease operations completely,” he said.
Most of the Janesville factory makes the GMC Yukon and the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban large SUVs, and sales of those vehicles have plummeted with an increase in gasoline prices to around $4 per gallon earlier this year. Gas prices have subsided closer to $3 per gallon nationwide, but that has done little to boost sales.
A state lawmaker held out hope that GM will get a new product line and stay open.
State Rep. Mike Sheridan, a Janesville Democrat and former plant union representative, said in a statement Monday that GM is still considering whether to bring a line of small cars to the facility.
Lee said those discussions continue but have no bearing on the decision to end SUV production.
GM announced in June that it would close Janesville and three other factories as demand for pickup trucks and SUVs waned, but the only time frame that was given was by 2010. The company announced earlier this month that another of those plants — the Moraine, Ohio, SUV factory — will close Dec. 23.
On Friday, a person with knowledge of GM’s plans said it could close more factories as early as this week to deal with slumping sales and the collapse in its stock price. The announcement was likely to include acceleration of the assembly plant closures, which also include factories in Oshawa, Ontario, and Toluca, Mexico.