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Autoworkers Pushed to Limit as Many Plants Max Out

USA Today (05/23/12) Chris Woodyard

The automobile industry recovery has forced automakers to push factories and workers to the limit to try to meet increasing demand for new vehicles. Ford Motor and Chrysler Group are eliminating or reducing the annual two-week July shutdown at several plants this summer to add thousands of vehicles to their output.

Automakers have slimmed down in recent years, and have no excess capacity. However, they do not want to open new plants and risk having to close them if demand falters. So as demand rises, they push existing plants and workers harder. Hiring is increasing as well—for example, more than 1,000 jobs are being added at five U.S. plants by Toyota. Chrysler is adding 1,100 jobs on a third shift at the Detroit plant making the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and also just added 1,800 workers in Belvidere, IL, to make the new Dodge Dart. Volkswagen is adding 800 workers at its Chattanooga, TN, plant to run 20 hours a day, six days a week making Passat sedans. Hyundai is adding a third new shift of 877 workers at its Montgomery, AL, plant.