By CLIFF HIGHTOWER
The General Motors of Spring Hill plant is set to lay off 272 temporary workers next week as the auto manufacturer has met and exceeded production goals.
“In the automotive industry, you’re going to go through ebbs and flows,” said Mike Herron, chairman of UAW Local 1853.
Lauren Langille, General Motors spokeswoman, could not comment specifically about the layoffs. However, she said in a statement that the plant has been running at a higher rate of production to meet a huge demand for crossover vehicles.
She said those goals have been met, so the company is now working to maintain a stable output and “provide the smallest impact to plant employment going forward.”
The plant builds two vehicles – the Cadillac XT5 and the GMC Acadia. It also has two other plants that build 4-cylinder and 8-cylinder engines.
More than 4,000 employees are employed at the plant, which opened as a Saturn plant in 1990.
All of the layoffs will be on the vehicle manufacturing side, not the engine side, Herron said.
He said the layoffs came after the production launch of two new SUV’s at the plant last year. They had to produce a large amount of vehicles in a short time to get inventory up, but now that inventory level has been met. Therefore, there is less demand to keep producing at a higher rate. The plant hired more than 2,400 employees over the last 16 months in anticipation of the launch.
The layoffs have nothing to do with the two crossover vehicles selling successfully, Herron said.
Lindsay Chappell, a reporter for Automotive News and expert in the automotive industry, said “it’s a time of robust demand for GM products.” He said he does not see this as a sign of bad times for the auto industry or the General Motors plant.
“This is what they refer to on Wall Street as a market correction,” he said.
There is a possibility that those workers could be hired back if inventory starts to slip and more demand is needed, he said.
Herron said there are more workers who will be laid off temporarily for one week next week. Those workers will return after the Memorial Day holiday. The short-term layoff is due to upgrades on the assembly line.
The plant also continues to expand with next year seeing the opening of a third engine plant. The plant will employ 800 workers, he said.
There could be opportunities for laid off workers to come back and work at the new plant, he said. He said they were highly-skilled workers and hard workers who exceeded goals the past eight months working “seven days a week, 12 hours a day.”
But between the launch of the crossovers and the start of the new engine plant, General Motors had to cut back.
“We’re kind of in-between the two processes,” he said.
Cliff Hightower can be reached at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @CliffHightower.