Workers at General Motors39 Corvette plant in Bowling Green Ky General Motors

Workers at General Motors' Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Ky.

GM to Idle Shifts in Five Plants Next Month as Car Sales Slow

The shutdowns are another sign that the auto market may have hit a peak with slowing sales in less-profitable vehicles like passenger cars.

General Motors Co. will idle some production at five U.S. passenger car plants in January as the automaker works to reduce swelling inventories.

The shutdowns are another sign that the auto market may have hit a peak with slowing sales in less-profitable vehicles like passenger cars. Pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles remain popular, but sales of sports cars and traditional family sedans have slumped. Detroit-based GM saw inventories creep close to 90 days’ worth of vehicles at the end of November with passenger car stocks getting the fattest, a company spokesman said.

In response, GM will idle plants in Detroit-Hamtramck, along with Bowling Green, Kentucky, and the Fairfax industrial district of Kansas City, Kansas. The Detroit plant makes the Chevrolet Impala and Volt, Buick Lacrosse and Cadillac CT6 sedans. Workers at Fairfax build the Lacrosse and new Chevy Malibu, and Bowling Green builds the Corvette.

GM will also temporarily shut plants in Michigan and Ohio that had previously cut a shift each; the factories make the Chevy Cruze compact and Chevy Camaro sports car. The production cuts are relatively small since the plants will be idle for at most three weeks. GM expects to have inventory down to a more customary supply of 70 days’ worth of cars at the end of the month, the spokesman said.

Ford Motor Co. said in October that it was cutting production at plants that make the Escape small SUV and F-150 pickup in the face of slowing sales.

While automakers are starting to slow assembly lines, trucks and SUVs continue to sell at record levels. In November, total light-vehicle sales rose 3.7% to 1.38 million, a record for November, researcher Autodata Corp. reported. The month’s annual sales rate, adjusted for two extra selling days this November, was 17.9 million vehicles--more than the 17.7 million average estimate.

GM’s shares were little changed at $36.34 at 2:31 p.m. in New York.

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