General Motors idles Malibu plant in Kansas for 5 weeks-source

Mon Dec 17, 2012 7:38pm EST

* Fairfax plant also makes Buick LaCrosse

* GM had 164-day supply of Malibus on Dec. 1-Automotive News

DETROIT Dec 17 (Reuters) - General Motors Co idled the Kansas plant that makes the Chevrolet Malibu on Dec. 3 and will not reopen it until Jan. 7 in an attempt to cut into the hefty supply of the midsize sedan, said a source familiar with the situation.

The plant, in Fairfax, Kansas, was to be down for a week-and-a-half beginning December 24 for a normal holiday break. An extra 3-1/2 weeks of no-production days were added to allow GM to work through the oversupply of the Malibu and the Buick LaCrosse, which is also made at the plant.

U.S. sales of the Malibu this year were up 4 percent to 199,321 through November, according to Autodata Corp.

On December 1, GM had a 164-day supply of the Malibu, well over the comfort level for supply on hand for the automaker, according to Automotive News, which earlier on Monday reported the plant would be down four weeks beginning Dec. 10.

There are about 3,700 workers at the Fairfax plant, and some of them are continuing to work on maintenance work, said a GM spokesman.

A new 2013 version of the Malibu went on sale this past summer.

The Malibu is in one of the most competitive segments, the midsize sedan, of the U.S. auto market.

Through November, the sales leaders among midsize cars were the Toyota Motor Corp Camry, sales up 36 percent at 373,479; the Honda Motor Co Accord, up 39 percent at 302,444; the Nissan Motor Co Altima, up 15 percent at 243,005; the Ford Motor Co Fusion, down 2 percent at 226,445; and the Hyundai Motor Co Sonata, up 1 percent at 209,779.

Part of the year-on-year sales gains for Toyota's Camry and Honda's Accord are linked to the lack of inventory the two automakers had in 2011 after the March earthquake and tsunami last year in Japan.

GM has had a glut of other of its models, including its compact sedan the Chevrolet Cruze, and its fullsize pickup truck the Chevrolet Silverado.

GM at the end of November said it had a 139-day supply of the Silverado pickup truck, and a 96-day of supply of the Cruze.

The Cruze is made in Lordstown, Ohio, where scheduled December downtime was extended by an extra week, due to the oversupply situation.

U.S. sales for all four of GM's brands, Chevrolet, GMC, Cadillac and Buick, were up 3.5 percent this year through November. Overall, the U.S. industry's sales were up 14 percent in that same period.

GM remains the top U.S. automaker by sales, with 17.9 percent of the U.S. market through November, down from 19.7 percent through the first 11 months of 2011, according to Autodata Corp.