DETROIT—General Motors halted production on the evening of Jan. 30 at 13 Michigan manufacturing plants due to a fire involving equipment of a local utility company that is reducing the availability of natural gas in the area.
GM, at the request of Consumers Energy Co., said it stopped production at four assembly plants and nine supporting facilities as a way for the utility to conserve natural gas, company officials said. GM also asked more than 24,000 employees at its Warren Tech Center, Pontiac propulsion campus and Grand Blanc customer care and aftersales headquarters to work from home through at least Feb. 1.
Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe also thanked Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ford Motor Co. for voluntarily cutting gas use and interrupting production schedules through Feb. 1.
A Ford spokeswoman, in an email, described the situation as "very fluid." Four Ford plants are supplied by Consumers: Livonia Transmission, Van Dyke Transmission, Sterling Axle and Michigan Assembly.
"We have reduced heating levels at Livonia Transmission and Van Dyke, stopped heat treatment processes at Sterling Axle and have shut down the paint process at Michigan Assembly," the email said. "All other plants are operating normally."
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles also said it had canceled the first two shifts on Jan. 31 at both its Warren Truck and Sterling Heights Assembly plants and that more shifts could be canceled on Feb. 1.
"Employees normally scheduled for the first shift on Friday, Feb. 1, are asked to stay tuned for more information as the company continues to monitor the situation," FCA said in a midday statement on Jan. 31.
Michigan is among the Midwestern states that have experienced record cold temperatures this week, shutting numerous schools, businesses and government offices. It was 12 degrees below zero at 11 p.m. EST on Jan. 30 in Detroit.
At the affected GM assembly plants—Flint Assembly, Lansing Delta Township, Lansing Grand River and Orion Assembly—and their supporting facilities, second-shift workers were sent home and third-shift employees, where applicable, were told not to come to work, GM spokeswoman Kim Carpenter said. First shifts on Jan. 31 at all the facilities also have been canceled, she said.
The temporary shutdown for supporting facilities affects all GM manufacturing operations in Flint and Pontiac, a transmission plant in Warren, and two stamping operations in Lansing as well as other operations in Saginaw and Bay City.
Some GM operations were coming back online for the second shift on Jan. 31.
"GM, in cooperation with Consumers' Energy, is starting limited operations at Lansing Regional Stamping, Flint Stamping, Flint Engine, Pontiac Stamping and Warren Transmission on second shift today," GM said in an afternoon statement on Jan. 31. "Plants will notify employees using existing communication channels. We will continue to evaluate the situation."
Other GM plants in Michigan, such as Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, Romulus Powertrain, Brownstown Battery and Grand Rapids Operations are not affected. They are serviced by a different utility, Carpenter said.
The assembly plants that have been halted produce GM's heavy-duty pickups, the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse crossovers, and cars including the Cadillac CTS, Chevy Camaro and Chevy Bolt EV.
Employees are being notified by location when production will be suspended and when they will return to work. GM is contacting suppliers with specific details about the affected operations
GM is one of several large businesses that Consumers Energy is asking to cut down on heat while it contains the incident, according to a report from Crain's Detroit Business. An emergency alert sent to cell phones in parts of Michigan at 10:30 p.m. local time on Jan. 30 urged residents to lower their thermostats to 65 degrees or less through Friday.
Consumers Energy said the fire occurred at 10:33 a.m. and was under investigation. There were no injuries, the company said. The station resumed partial operations by Jan. 31.
"Repairs at our Ray Compressor Station are ongoing and the station is partially in service, providing natural gas to our distribution system. However, we are asking that all customers continue to conserve until the end of the day Friday, Feb. 1, to allow for temperatures to moderate and additional repairs to the Ray Station," the utility said in a statement.
Michael Martinez, Vince Bond Jr. and Crain's Detroit Business contributed to this report.