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GM increases production of highly profitable SUVs, pickups on Monday


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Trucks come off the assembly line at GM’s Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup truck plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana, July 25, 2018. 

John Gress | Reuters

General Motors plans to significantly increase production at U.S. plants Monday as part of a gradual reopening of its North American operations after March shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Most importantly, the company will return American plants that produce pickup trucks such as the Chevrolet Silverado to pre-coronavirus levels of three shifts. It also will begin reopening a plant in Texas on one shift that builds large SUVs such as the Chevrolet Silverado and Cadillac Escalade. All are highly profitable products for the company that are in low supply on dealer lots.

“Our comprehensive safety procedures are working well, and our suppliers have done a great job implementing their return-to-work strategies and safety playbooks,” the company said in a statement late Thursday. “We are now in a position to increase production to meet strengthening customer demand and strong dealer demand.”

Since restarting U.S. production on May 18, the automaker has slowly been increasing output at its North American plants. The slower pace is meant to allow time for its suppliers to build inventory and employees to get accustomed to new safety protocols in the plants to lower the spread of Covid-19.

Plants in Flint, Michigan; Fort Wayne, Indiana and Wentzville, Missouri, are expected to increase from one to three shifts on Monday. Flint and Fort Wayne produce the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, which were expected to increase production this week but were delayed due to a parts shortage. Wentzville produces midsize pickups such as the Chevrolet Colorado and large vans.

Other plants that produce cars and crossovers for the automaker also are adding shifts or reopening next week, according to the company.

With the increases in production, the vast majority of GM’s 48,000 hourly workers will be back to work as of next week.

GM spokesman Jim Cain confirmed Friday that some employees have tested positive for Covid-19. He declined to comment on the exact number of positive cases and how many employees have been tested.

“The circumstances around each case were different but none required production to be paused,” Cain said in an email. “We are not providing statistics on Covid testing.”

GM’s crosstown rival, Ford Motor, has paused production or sent workers home after employees tested positive for Covid-19 at least four times since restarting production May 18.

Ford started four of its plants, including those that produce its bestselling F-Series pickups, last week. The company, according to Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker, will add second shifts at plants in Kansas City, Missouri, and Louisville, Kentucky, on Monday.

Felker said the company will “continue to increase production as our workforce and supply chain are able to support.”

Fiat Chrysler also plans to have a majority of its U.S. workforce, roughly 85%, and plants back to work next week, according to company spokeswoman Jodi Tinson.

The spokeswomen for both companies declined to disclose how many employees have tested positive for Covid-19 as well as how many employees have been tested.

All three of the Detroit automakers started reopening assembly plants on May 18.

www.cnbc.com 2020-05-29 19:48:53

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