DETROIT (Dec. 18, 2008) — Chrysler L.L.C. plans to idle its entire North American manufacturing network for at least a month, starting Dec 19, as it struggles to deal with the ongoing credit crisis and plunging sales.
The action affects 30 plants, including all assembly, powertrain, component and stamping operations, Chrysler said. The company has 46,000 hourly workers, most of them in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, a spokesperson said.
Chrysler had already planned to extend its normal holiday shutdown, which was slated to run from Dec. 24 through Jan. 2, to include Dec. 22 and 23. That means Chrysler will drop an additional two weeks of production if workers return on Jan. 19.
Chrysler's U.S. sales have fallen 27.7 percent so far this year. The decline steepened this fall as credit markets tightened. Chrysler sales fell 47.1 percent in November, the biggest drop of any car maker.
Chrysler joined General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. in pleading for a financial bailout in Washington. Chrysler asked for a $7 billion bridge loan. Chairman Bob Nardelli told lawmakers the company could run out of money in the first quarter of 2009 without the loan. The fate of the bailout is in the hands of the White House after the measure failed to clear the Senate last week.
Mr. Nardelli told Congress the company would end 2008 with $2.5 billion cash on hand. He said the company will owe suppliers $8 billion in the first quarter alone. That accounts for the lion's share of Chrysler's estimated $9.4 billion in first quarter expenditures, he said in testimony. The company burned through $1 billion a month in the third quarter, he said.
In a recent meeting at corporate headquarters, members of Chrysler's dealer council said lack of consumer credit is stifling sales.
“Chrysler dealers confirmed to the company at a recent meeting at its headquarters, that they have many willing buyers for Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles but are unable to close the deals, due to lack of financing,” a Chrysler statement said.
By Dec. 31, Chrysler will have slashed its workforce by 32,000 since its restructuring started in February 2007. That includes 5,000 white collar employees who took buyout and early retirement packages Nov. 26. As part of the restructuring, Chrysler has cut 12 factory shifts, taking out 1.2 million units of annual production—30 percent of its total production.