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Axle strike threatens GM's hot-selling Malibu

David Barkholz
and Robert Sherefkin
Automotive News
March 31, 2008 - 5:24 pm ET

2008 Chevy Malibu

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DETROIT -- General Motors will have to shut production by mid-April of its hot-selling Chevrolet Malibu if supplier American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. can't end a strike by the UAW, a UAW official said today.

GM is fast running out of an American Axle-supplied knuckle used in the rear suspension of the Malibu and Pontiac G6 sedans, said Mike Dunn, shop chairman of UAW Local 5960. The local represents some 2,900 hourly workers at GM's Orion (Mich.) assembly plant.

The plant makes about 1,000 G6 and Malibu sedans per week. Dunn said a shortage of the knuckle also will shut GM's Fairfax assembly plant in Kansas City, Kan., by mid-month. Fairfax is the main plant for Malibu production.

" I'm hoping GM can help resolve the strike before that happens, but we'll stand by our striking union brothers and sisters at American Axle if not," Dunn said.

GM spokesman Dan Flores declined to comment on the situation. American Axle spokeswoman Renee Rogers also declined comment on Monday evening.

North American Car of the Year

The Malibu is the hottest vehicle in the GM portfolio. It won the 2008 North American Car of the Year award at the Detroit auto show in January.

GM sold 27,001 Malibu sedans in January and February, up 29.1 percent from the same period a year ago.

The gas-sipping G6 is selling faster -- GM sold 30,843 of them in January and February, up 32.7 percent from 2007.

About 3,650 UAW members struck American Axle on Feb. 26 � and little or no progress has been made at the bargaining table since then.

So far, the strike has caused GM to idle seven truck plants, one sedan assembly operation and 22 parts plants. Suppliers have also slowed or idled several other plants.

GM today shut down sedan production at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, which makes the Buick Lucerne and Cadillac DTS models.

Meanwhile, production at the Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant could shut down as early as this week, according to a bulletin posted on the Web site of UAW Local 1112.

The plant makes the Chevy Cobalt and Pontiac G5 models. American Axle makes a brake spindle sent to the plant through suppliers Delphi Corp. and Automodular, the UAW says.

Management at Lordstown has not yet informed the UAW of any production changes, the bulletin said.

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