Chrysler plans two-week July shutdown
By David Bailey
DETROIT (Reuters) - Chrysler LLC said on Thursday it would shut all but its most essential operations worldwide for two weeks in July, a first for the struggling No. 3 U.S. automaker as it attempts to cut costs and preserve cash.
Chrysler, which is in a restructuring that includes trimming some vehicle lines and offering buyouts to its 44,000 U.S. hourly workers, lost $1.6 billion in 2007.
The automaker has been accelerating its restructuring efforts since Cerberus Capital Management LP acquired a nearly 80 percent stake from Daimler AG <DAIGn.DE> last summer.
The broad shutdown of Chrysler operations during the weeks of July 7 and July 14 was announced to employees in an e-mail from Chief Executive Bob Nardelli.
Nardelli said the move was needed to help Chrysler to create "efficiency across organizational lines and boost productivity."
Chrysler, General Motors Corp <GM.N> and Ford Motor Co <F.N> typically idle U.S. plants in early July for vacations and shut individual manufacturing operations at various times to retool when they have car and truck model changeovers.
The U.S. auto market has slumped by a wider margin than most analysts had anticipated last summer, when Cerberus completed its acquisition of its majority stake in Chrysler. The company has indicated that it is trying to step up its restructuring efforts in response.
Nardelli has repeatedly said that the automaker would focus on bolstering its cash position, and Chrysler has taken a number of cost-cutting steps in recent weeks.
Chrysler announced last week that it was shutting a design studio outside San Diego it has maintained since the early 1980s.
The automaker has also taken a hard line in negotiations since late last year with bankrupt parts supplier Plastech Engineered Products Inc in an effort to steer clear of a more expensive bailout for the privately held company.
Chrysler's U.S. sales are down almost 13 percent in the first two months of the year.
Chrysler spokeswoman Mary Beth Halprin said the automaker would remain staffed in some areas to support its sales network during the summer shutdown.
GM spokesman Dan Flores said the No. 1 U.S. automaker planned to idle its U.S. plants during the first two weeks of July this year as it has in the past.
Ford is also planning a two-week shutdown of its North American assembly plants in July, similar to past years, spokeswoman Angie Kozleski said.
(Additional reporting by Karey Wutkowski)
(Reporting by David Bailey, editing by Mark Porter and Gerald E. McCormick)