A spokesperson for Chrysler says the company laid off second-shift workers at the Toledo North Assembly plant last Friday.
Spokeswoman Jodi Tinson says the 2-week furlough was planned so that the shipping company is not overwhelmed with vehicles while trying to get initial orders of the new Jeep Cherokee to dealers.
Tinson said in an email:
"We have been producing vehicles since the end of June and have now built the critical number of vehicles we need to stock dealerships once containment is released. We will temporarily idle the second shift so as not to put additional strain on our logistics partners to get these vehicles into the hands of customers as quickly and efficiently as possible upon release."
Bruce Baumhower, president of the local United Auto Workers, said many second-shift employees are performing a final test drive on the new Cherokee to make sure they are ready to be released to dealers. He also said it may only be a 1-week shut down.
"It could turn into two weeks. We were told it would be one week for sure, and then, [it would depend] on how fast they got this containment done whether it needed a second week or not," Baumhower said. "So about 500 people are still laid off, the rest of them are doing the test drive. We're also doing some training on the new employees this week."
He says there is no problem with the new Cherokee, but they need to be tested to make sure everything is running smoothly.
"The unusual thing with this launch is you've got a brand new engine," he said. "You've got a brand new, 9-speed transmission, a brand new torque converter."
Baumhower says they are still producing 400 vehicles per day on first shift. When the laid-off employees return to work, the plant will have over 4,000 employees. Baumhower is also predicting future growth.
"By next year we might have to look at a third shift, and add another 8 or 900 people," he said.
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