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4 GM truck plants shift into overtime

Factories in Pontiac, Flint to see production increase as automaker bets on sales surge.


By Ed Garsten / The Detroit News

Related reports

General Motors Corp. said it plans to ramp up production at its four full-size pickup plants, including factories in Pontiac and Flint, in anticipation of a surge in late spring and summer sales.

The automaker, which is in dire need of a jump-start after a $1.1 billion first-quarter loss, said it's willing to max out overtime and run the factories on Saturdays to build as many of its stalwart Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups as possible.

"We're continuing to see strength, especially in pockets of the full-size pickup market, so we're bringing in overtime where we see underlying demand for our products," said Paul Ballew, GM executive director of global market and industry analysis.

But ramping up truck production carries risks. GM dealers are already overstocked with big pickups and high gas prices are turning many consumers toward more fuel efficient vehicles. If the pickups languish on dealer lots, GM could be forced to offer big, profit-eating discounts to push sales.

"It just doesn't seem to make sense to me," said Scott Montgomery, sales manager at Les Stanford Chevrolet in Dearborn.

GM desperately needs to stem sales declines. Its U.S. market share has dwindled to 25.4 percent through April from 27 percent a year ago.

The automaker expects to boost production at its Pontiac truck plant in early June, said spokesman Stefan Weinmann.

But the automaker has not yet decided whether it will recall any of the 900 workers laid off in January when a third production shift was eliminated, according to Weinmann said. About 2,750 people are now working at the plant.

Plants in Flint, Fort Wayne, Ind., and Oshawa, Ontario, are already utilizing some overtime, but overtime hours are being extended and may be expanded to include weekends.

GM's full-size trucks have been solid. While its U.S. sales have fallen 5 percent this year, demand for the Silverado has fallen 3 percent and Sierra sales have climbed 9 percent.

The gains come even as competition in the full-size pickup market intensifies because of newer models from Ford Motor Co., Dodge and Nissan Motor Co.

"Things get generalized that the truck market is soft, but the pickup truck segment is going great," Mark LaNeve, GM's head of North America sales, service and marketing, said in an interview Wednesday. "We had a record March and we gained share this year."

GM now controls about 40 percent of the lucrative large pickup market in the United States, followed by Ford at 33 percent, DaimlerChrysler AG with 17 percent, 6 percent for Toyota Motor Co. and Nissan with 3.9 percent.

The current Silverado and Sierra are the oldest models in the segment and are scheduled to be redesigned for the 2007 model year.

GM has about an 80 days' supply of full-size pickups, according to Paul Ballew, GM executive director of global market and industry analysis.

That is about 15-20 days more than optimal but Ballew says GM still believes additional pickup production is needed to satisfy expected demand.

Beefing up production when inventories are so high is unusual, but analyst Mike Jackson at CSM Worldwide said GM clearly hopes to sell more full-size trucks to make up for a decline in full-size sport utility vehicle sales.

"They want to make sure they can capture every sale they can on the pickup side because they know on the SUV front it's been softer than they'd like to see," Jackson said.

While SUV's are affected by changes in consumer tastes, analysts say pickup truck buyers tend to be loyal and many need them for work.

GM's credit rating was downgraded last week to noninvestment grade or "junk status" by Standard & Poor's Corp. in large part because of lackluster U.S. sales and a drop in demand for full-size SUVs.

The automaker is counting on a number of new vehicle launches to restore profits, but none is more important than the new line of full-size sport utility vehicles and pickups that will begin to appear next year.

Big trucks represent some of GM's most profitable products, but LaNeve said the automaker is not betting its future on the pickups.

"We've got a lot of stuff we're launching ahead of that," LaNeve said. "It's not like the whole company is obsessing over the trucks."

The competition will heat up next year, however, when Toyota begins building a new generation of full-size pickups at a new plant in San Antonio, Texas, right in the heart of truck country.
 

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GM must be on crack. Every dealer around here are over flowing with pick ups.
 

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Yeah, their trucks are good, but so stale now. The interiors suck ass big time. The 2003 redesign took a truck that was at least DECENT looking and made it horrendously ugly (the chevy anyways...the GMC nose looks a lot better). I don't see how they can expect sales of their trucks/SUV's to do anything better than stay where they are. Not until they invest in remodeling them. There is no reason to buy one, unless you're just a die-hard fan. You can get so much more from a Dodge or Ford for the same money because they've been updated in recent years with new technology and current styles.
 

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Operator said:
Yeah, there trucks are good, but so stale now. The interiors suck ass big time. The 2003 redesign took a truck that was at least DECENT looking and made it horrendously ugly (the chevy anyways...the GMC nose looks a lot better).

You can get so much more from a Dodge or Chevy for the same money because they've been updated in recent years with new technology and current styles.
I am confused :confused: Can you help me out here. I am sure it was just a typo or a brain fart but still I am confused.
 

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I am confused Can you help me out here. I am sure it was just a typo or a brain fart but still I am confused.
Whoops....fixed it! :fun_08:
 

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acctually I think the new Chevy trucks are nice looking, and the Duramax is putting out 605 ftlbs of torque now. Combine that with DC loosing Cummins, our next truck may very well be made by GM.
 

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The Duramax has the highest HP and torque ratings, yes. But ratings are just written down on paper and don't mean much out in the field where the trucks are actually used. Most still go for the PSD or Cummins, which says a lot. I think the Duramax needs a little more time out there to prove itself. Not that I think there's anything really wrong with it, but the only buyer more fiercely loyal than truck buyers is a Diesel truck buyer. As far as losing Cummins, if they do, I'd assume the new Ram diesel will be made by Dailmler. I'm sure a Mercedes diesel will be as good or even better than Cummins.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I've heard from many a person who have tried the Duramax and the Cummins and they all say Duramax can hold their own with ease. They find them more comfortable overall, as well.

EDIT: 300 POSTS :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D
 

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The Duramax does not have the highest HP and Torque Ratings:

Dodge Ram HD:

High Output 325 hp / 610 lb.-ft. of torque
Quicker acceleration
24 valves, I-6 design
Longer "scheduled" oil change interval: up to 15,000 miles versus 7,500, depending on use*
Reduced maintenance/350,000-mile engine overhaul
They're out there - Dodge owners who have logged more than a million miles on their Cummins engine and earned membership in the Million Mile Club

Chevy:
With the Allison five-speed automatic transmission:
310 horsepower @ 3000 rpm.
605 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1600 rpm.
With the ZF six-speed manual transmission:
300 horsepower @ 3000 rpm.
520 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1600 rpm
.

So if you opt for a manual you end up losing power? Odd.
 
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