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Old 08-16-2003, 04:21   #1 (permalink)
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U.S.A.:Auto industry slowly ramps up after blackout

By John Porretto / AP Auto Writer

DETROIT -- A handful of North American automotive plants prepared to resume production Friday night and Saturday, but the bulk of the continent's manufacturing remained paralyzed by the multistate blackout.

More than 50 assembly and other plants operated by General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group were affected by the cascading blackout that began Thursday afternoon in New York, parts of Canada and the upper Midwest.

One Honda Motor Co. plant in Canada also was idle Friday.

Power had returned to many sections of Michigan by Friday night, and a complete restoration of electric service was expected by the end of the weekend.

The result of the shutdowns on supplies of new cars and trucks was not immediately available, but inventories across the industry had been well above normal before automakers beefed up incentives last month and recorded their best sales month of the year.

GM, the world's largest automaker, said 17 of its plants were closed, affecting 44,000 workers. Spokesman Pat Morrissey said only skilled trades and maintenance personnel reported to work Friday.

Morrissey said operations were expected to remain idle Saturday, partially resume on Sunday and return to full capacity Monday.

He offered no estimate on production or dollar losses as a result of the blackout, but the automaker was confident it could make up the production setbacks.

Affected plants were in and around Lansing, Pontiac and Detroit in Michigan, Ontario in Canada and Toledo and Parma in Ohio.

Ford spokesman Ed Lewis said 23 of Ford's 44 plants in North America were shut down. Lewis said those plants were concentrated in southeast Michigan, the Cleveland area and parts of Ontario.

Lewis said a few Ford plants were expected to crank back up Friday night or Saturday morning, but it wasn't certain when full production would resume.

"Each facility is a little different," he said. "Each area is a little different."

Fourteen of DaimlerChrysler's 31 North American plants also were closed, mostly in southeast Michigan and Ontario, said spokesman Mike Aberlich.

Aberlich said it was difficult to say when production would resume.

"It's really minute to minute," he said.

U.S. supplies of new cars and trucks were 12 percent above average at the end of July, down slightly from the end of June when inventories were 13 percent above normal, according to a research report this week from Merrill Lynch analyst John Casesa.

In trading Friday on the New York Stock Exchange, GM shares fell 22 cents to close at $37.10; Ford shares were up a cent to $10.77. And DaimlerChrysler shares were up 23 cents to $37.13.
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