’09 Ram Output Safe From New Shutdown Schedule

The auto maker “may have a plant that’s running” during the 2-week hiatus.

Chrysler LLC’s launch of the redesigned-for-’09 Dodge Ram pickup will not be affected by the auto maker’s company-wide shutdown planned for mid-July, a spokeswoman says.

“It’s important to make sure our dealers and customers are taken care of,” Mary Beth Halprin says.

Chrysler Chairman and CEO Robert Nardelli informed employees today in an email that the auto maker will close its operations for the weeks of July 7 and July 14.

During that time, production of the Ram – flagship vehicle of Chrysler’s high-volume Dodge brand – will be at a critical stage. Halprin tells Ward’s the auto maker will ensure dealers have sufficient inventory, but she declines to say how that will be accomplished.

Says a Chrysler insider: “We may have a plant that’s running one of those two weeks.”

The Ram is Chrysler’s best-selling model. It accounted for more than 25% of the auto maker’s 1.5 million light-vehicle deliveries in 2007, according to Ward’s data.

Despite a decline in overall U.S. industry sales last year, the Ram held on to its 4.2% share of the light-truck market. And Chrysler Vice Chairman and President Jim Press has said the ’09 model will help the auto maker increase its take in the pickup segment.

Nardelli’s email says the move is designed to “create better alignment and efficiency across organizational lines and boost productivity,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

In other words, when Chrysler’s plants are idle during July – as they are every year for summer shutdown – there is less need for the entire organization.

Exceptions are those employees responsible for parts and service, “a critical area” for dealer support, Halprin says.

Chrysler managers are “working through how to best realign their vacation days to the shutdown period,” she says, acknowledging that some employees may not have enough vacation time left or accumulated to ensure uninterrupted pay.

Halprin notes Chrysler is not the first auto maker to implement a company-wide summer shutdown.

“We are aligning ourselves to existing practice,” she says.

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