Automotive - Slowdown at border shuts plants
By GREG KEENAN, The Globe and Mail
Wednesday, September 12, 2001
Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. cancelled shifts at several of its plants Tuesday because of snarled border traffic, while DaimlerChrysler Corp. halted production at its U.S. plants because of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Ford Canada will shut its pickup truck plant in Oakville, Ont., Wednesday. It cancelled a shift at a neighbouring minivan plant Tuesday.
Production of Windstar minivans is expected to resume Wednesday, spokesman John Arnone said.
Afternoon and evening shifts at two engine plants in Windsor, Ont., were also cancelled. Ford's Windsor and Essex engine plants normally operate three shifts a day, five days a week.
The Windsor shutdowns will affect the shipment of engines to several U.S. assembly plants.
The cause of the Ford shutdowns is a system known as just-in-time manufacturing in which parts that go into vehicles arrive at assembly plants just hours before they are snapped on or placed into vehicles.
The system has enabled auto makers to slash inventory costs dramatically, but leaves them vulnerable to unforeseen events such as bad weather or Tuesday's border slowdowns.
DaimlerChrysler closed its U.S. headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., and assembly plants throughout the United States, but three Canadian assembly plants remained operating late Tuesday and were not affected by the border problems, DaimlerChrysler Canada Inc. spokeswoman Shawn Morgan said.
Material that comes from U.S. sources and goes into vehicles made in plants at Oshawa, Ont., and Ste-Thérèse, Que., is arriving more slowly than usual, said General Motors of Canada Ltd. spokesman Stew Low, but not slowly enough as of late Tuesday to cause any shutdowns.
Vehicles that are shipped to the United States by rail through border crossings at Windsor, Queenston Heights, Ont., and near Gananoque, Ont., are being delayed as well, Mr. Low said.
He and spokesmen for other auto makers operating in Canada said they were getting conflicting reports throughout the day about whether the border was closed or travel was just much slower than usual.
Officials at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. in Cambridge, Ont., said production went ahead as scheduled for Tuesday's afternoon shift, but they will make a decision about Wednesday's production early this morning.
Elsewhere in the auto world, the opening ceremonies for the Frankfurt Auto Show in Germany were cancelled and several auto makers cancelled news conferences originally scheduled to show off new vehicles.
Officials at the show dramatically increased security after the attacks in the United States.
With files from Bloomberg and Dow Jones.