GM to close local plant temporarily


General Motors Corp. will temporarily shut down its plant on Broening Highway next week, idling more than 3,000 workers.

The move, representing the sixth week the workers at the minivan plant have been furloughed since mid-December, came as part of an industrywide decision by the "Big Three" automakers to close 10 plants temporarily, affecting more than 27,000 workers nationwide.

This latest round of closures came as automakers struggled with the weakest consumer demand for autos in a decade. The shutdowns were announced yesterday, a day after General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp. reported sharply lower sales in the first 10 days of March.

Automakers have used a string of shutdowns to help lower inventory at a time when sales and profits have been hurting. General Motors, for example, reported previously that it lost $1.6 billion during last year's fourth quarter.

In all, GM said that it would idle five U.S. car and truck plants next week, putting 16,400 workers on temporary layoff.

Chrysler said that it would idle its assembly plant in Newark, Del., next week, affecting 3,300 hourly workers there.

Ford said that four car and truck plants would be idled next week, affecting 7,750 hourly workers.

On Wednesday, analysts said car sales fell 12.5 percent in the first 10 days of March against the year-ago period, despite hopes that consumers would return to the showrooms now that the gulf war is over.

The GM plant in East Baltimore, which makes Astro and Safari minivans, was shut the last three weeks in December and two weeks in late January. Employees said late yesterday that they had been informed of the closure last week.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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