DETROIT -- The top executive at General Motors Corp. announced further sweeping cuts yesterday in December's car and truck production and painted a bleak short-term outlook for the auto industry.
Plummeting consumer confidence has undercut demand for cars and trucks, GM Chairman and Chief Executive officer Robert C. Stempel said. The cutbacks were needed, he said, to avoid being saddled with a glut of cars heading into an uncertain new year.
The accelerated retrenchment will shut down a big part of GM's U.S. and Canadian operations for the rest of the year, although company officials said they didn't yet know how many thousands of workers would be laid off.
"You can assume there's going to be a lot of downtime," a GM spokesman said.
Earlier this week GM confirmed that about 300 workers will be laid off on Jan. 22 at the Baltimore plant on Broening Highway. There has be no indication so far that there will be any additional layoffs, according to Terry Youngerman, personnel director at the plant. "As far as we know, there is no change as we speak today," he said.
Stempel's actions appeared to confirm the underlying weakness of vehicle sales, despite recent results that showed sales improved over a year ago. This week, the industry reported a 13 percent spurt in mid-November sales to better-than-expected levels. GM enjoyed a climb of nearly 17 percent.
GM will carve another 111,000 vehicles out of its fourth-quarter schedule, on top of previously announced cuts of 181,000 vehicles. Those cutbacks have already idled up to 43,000 hourly workers at 17 assembly plants for periods of as long as a month, starting in late October.
The cutback to fourth-quarter production of 1.07 million vehicles will leave GM about 19 percent below the level it first hoped to reach in the October-December period at its U.S. and Canadian plants, Stempel said.
GM officials couldn't say late yesterday which plants will be closed, or for how long.