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Old 08-15-2003, 17:06   #1 (permalink)
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U.S.A.:Blackout paralyzes auto industry

By John Porretto / Associated Press

DETROIT -- Much of North America's automotive manufacturing remained paralyzed Friday as plants struck by the multistate blackout lay idle.

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 occurred Thursday afternoon in New York, parts of Canada and the upper Midwest.

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

GM, the world's largest automaker, said 17 of its plants were closed. Spokesman Pat Morrissey said only skilled trades and maintenance personnel were reporting to work for Friday's first shift. No decision had been made on the second shift.

The 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.

Like GM, first-shift workers were told not to report Friday.

"We'll reassess and determine our next step as the day goes on," Lewis said.

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.

Power had returned to some parts of Michigan on Friday afternoon, but DTE Energy, one of the state's largest utilities, said it could be late in the weekend before electricity was completely restored to the Detroit area.

U.S. auto inventories remain high, because of sluggish sales to start the year, so shortages of new cars and trucks are unlikely.

Strong July sales, however, shrunk that inventory somewhat. U.S. supplies 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 afternoon trading Friday on the New York Stock Exchange, GM shares were down 6 cents to $37.26; Ford shares were off 4 cents to $10.72. And DaimlerChrysler shares were up 23 cents to $37.13.
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