Slow SUV sales mean down time for GM workers in Janesville

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

Next week workers at three GM plants across North America will work over time, but employees from the company's plant in Janesville will not go to work. Monday marked the start of a monthlong shutdown for GM workers at the Janesville plant.

Everybody knows the GM assembly plant in Janesville is old.
But the lifestyle nowadays for nearly 3,000 workers is something new.

"This plant has basically been a big money maker for GM the past 15 years. And now all of a sudden, that's slowed down," says John Dohner, Jr. of UAW Local 95.

The plant produces 1,200 trucks a day, all full-size sport utility vehicles.
But in it's shadow sits what some fear is fuel for a sales slump.

"A lot of people don't just glance, they cringe when they see the price at the pump," Dohner says.

$2.05 -- the current nationwide average for a gallon of gas. It's also 30 cents more than this time last year.

"It's kind of out there that, gas prices get up into the $2.50, $2.75 and $3 range ... that it really will affect vehicle sales and what people are going to buy," Dohner says.

The plant's spokesperson says slow SUV sales caused this latest four week shutdown. You can see a lot full of leftover inventory by just driving by.

"It's a direct response to number of vehicles sitting in dealer lots. We have laid off to adjust to production levels," plant spokesperson Carolyn Markey says. But GM representatives deny higher gas prices impact sales significantly. "Gasoline, although, it adds to it ... is not necessarily a large determining factor," Markey says.

The company reports a 32 % drop in full size SUV sales since this time last year, while sales industry-wide fell 26 %. Markey says the company expected a tough year. "Analysts all told us that," she says.

But people in this community foretell a brighter future with a new product coming online next year. "Anytime ... get them to invest in a plant, it's a bright spot," Dohner says.

Plant employees return to work April 11th. This is Janesville's 2nd shutdown this year. The company laid off workers for 3 weeks in January.

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