General Motors has idled its Fairfax Assembly Plant — the birthplace of the Buick LaCrosse and Chevy Malibu — and is going to prolong the shutdown for an extended period during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
The normal holiday break consists of a seven day shutdown, but since the plant is not scheduled to resume production until January 7 of 2013, the facility will enjoy a total downtime of 20 days.
“We have strategically built Chevrolet Malibu stock levels based on scheduled downtime and a strengthening vehicle market,” GM said in a statement. “This idle time gives us an opportunity to conduct scheduled facility projects aimed at improving the plant’s future competitiveness. Additionally, we are hosting select employees for training and carrying out standard maintenance work.”
So, are slow Malibu sales to blame? GM declined to comment on whether increasing inventory of the Chevrolet midsize factored into the longer-than-usual production break. As of December 1 2012, GM’s inventory of Malibus reached a 164-day supply.
Completely redesigned for the 2013 model year, the new Malibu arrived at dealer showrooms in August. And while year-to-date sales are up four percent through November, the growth lags behind the industry’s 14 percent. What’s more, sales seem to be on a downward slope, with November sales down 0.4 percent.
Only two years ago, the Malibu was the second best-selling vehicle produced by GM, behind the full-size Silverado pickup truck. It has since slipped to sixth place. Since its launch, the Malibu has been criticized by some pundits for a lack of rear-seat legroom. However, the vehicle will receive several updates next year, including a new 1.6 liter turbo-charged engine and revised front-end styling — which, in our opinion, is one of the aspects of the new Malibu that should be left untouched.
Located in Kansas City, Kansas, GM’s Fairfax assembly plant opened in 1987 and currently employs roughly 3,500 hourly and 315 salaried workers. Normally, the plant operates three shifts running Monday through Friday.
The GM Authority Take
Before jumping to any hasty conclusions, let’s remember that one of the pillars established by the leadership team of the New General Motors has been to keep production (supply) in line with sales (demand). Keeping this in mind — along with the fact that the new Malibu launched with the more expensive mild-hybrid Eco model — it may be too early to tell whether or not the extended shutdown is the result of slow sales and growing inventory.
We’ll likely find out whether the Malibu is truly a slow seller in the next several months, but as of this writing, it doesn’t seem that the vehicle will be outselling Toyota’s Camry anytime soon.