UPDATE 1-Chrysler to idle four plants next week

DETROIT Fri Feb 6, 2009 10:48am EST

DETROIT Feb 6 (Reuters) - Chrysler LLC said it will idle four plants starting Monday as it seeks to curb production in the face of weak demand for vehicles.

The struggling U.S. automaker, which received a $4 billion emergency loan from the U.S. government last month, is idling its plants in Sterling Heights, Michigan, Belvidere, Illinois, Conner Avenue in Detroit and Brampton, Ontario.

"We are responding to market conditions, the number of orders we are getting," Chrysler spokesman Max Gates said on Friday. "We are looking at these schedules every week."

Chrysler, which saw its U.S. sales decline 30 percent in 2008 and 55 percent in January, had shut down all of its 30 manufacturing facilities for a month from mid-December.

The shutdowns at the Belvidere plant that builds the slow-selling Dodge Caliber, Jeep Patriot and Jeep Compass SUVs, and its Sterling Heights factory that builds the Sebring and Avenger sedans had been extended for an additional week.

The two factories had resumed operations on Jan. 26.

Chrysler's Brampton plant builds the 300, Charger and Challenger sedans while its Conner Avenue plant in Detroit builds the Dodge Viper.

The Conner Avenue plant has been idled since December as the company seeks a buyer for the Viper sports car line. Chrysler said this week that it is considering bids from three parties interested in the brand.

By idling plants, Chrysler and other automakers can cut costs on inventory, components and related charges such as utilities for operating large production facilities.

The moves also keep finished vehicle inventories from piling up on dealer lots and increasing the pressure for even greater discounting to consumers.

Privately held Chrysler is 80 percent-owned by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. (Reporting by Poornima Gupta, editing by Dave Zimmerman)

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