DETROIT—Summer vacation will be shortened or won't come at all for some Detroit 3 assembly plants in the U.S. as light truck and SUV sales continue to heat up.
Though plants traditionally shut down for about two weeks in July for employee vacations and preparation for the model year changeover, automakers are keeping plants running in response to consumer demand. Ford Motor Co. will cut its two-week break in half for four of its assembly plants, Chrysler Group L.L.C. will keep two U.S. plants open and General Motors Co. will have about one third of its plants operating through the summer.
In June, GM's U.S. light-vehicle sales rose 1 percent, Chrysler's increased 9 percent and Ford's declined 6 percent from the year-earlier month. And in May, all three automakers had year-over-year sales increases, with GM up 13 percent, Chrysler up 17 percent and Ford up 3 percent.
As a whole, U.S. light-vehicle sales rose 4 percent to 8.2 million vehicles during the first half of the year from the first six months of 2013—with a seasonally adjusted annual rate in June of 17 million units, the highest rate since July 2006.
Chrysler plans to keep its Jefferson North and Sterling Heights plants in southeast Michigan open this month. The plants produce the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Durango and Chrysler 200. The Grand Cherokee this year had its highest-selling May since 2000.
Chrysler spokeswoman Shawn Morgan said consumer demand has been driving summer plans.
“We certainly monitor demand for vehicles and manage the production schedule accordingly,” Morgan said.
GM said it plans to shut two-thirds of its plants for a summer break. Though the company declined to reveal specific schedules, according to Automotive News data, the plants that have not yet reported scheduled shutdowns are Arlington, Texas; Bowling Green, Ky.; and Flint, Mich.
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Those plants produce many of the automaker's light trucks and SUVs, including the Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. The Bowling Green plant makes the Chevrolet Corvette.
“This approach gives us more flexibility and enables quicker response to market conditions,” GM spokeswoman Katie McBride said in a statement. “Shutdown periods will vary by plant based on launch timing of new or refreshed models across the portfolio.”
Though Ford will shut all of its assembly plants for a summer break, the company said that because of increased demand for specific models, factories in Chicago, Kansas City, Mo.; and two plants in Louisville, Ky., will close only for the first week of July. Those plants produce the Ford Explorer, Taurus, F series, Expedition and Escape, and Lincoln MKS, MKC and Navigator.
The company's Dearborn, Mich., plant will shut for most of September to retool for production of the aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup.