Chrysler to idle Illinois plant for two weeks

DETROIT, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Chrysler LLC on Wednesday said it would shut down its Belvidere, Illinois assembly plant for two weeks beginning on Monday in order to run down its inventory of unsold vehicles.

The privately held automaker, which is in a crucial round of contract talks with the United Auto Workers union, had been running the plant with three shifts.

The plant, which Chrysler points to as a success in its effort to shift to a less costly flexible manufacturing system, employs about 3,400 workers and produces the Dodge Caliber, Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot.

“It’s being done to adjust inventory levels,” Chrysler spokeswoman Michele Tinson said of the temporary shutdown.

Chrysler's U.S. sales were down 5 percent in September and the automaker, like its larger rivals General Motors Corp. GM.N and Ford Motor Co. F.N has been pulling back on low margin sales to car rental agencies.

Sales of the Jeep Compass and the Dodge Caliber were both down 20 percent in September from a year earlier after adjusting for the number of selling days, according to Autodata Corp.

GM reached a tentative deal with the UAW last week that traded job security provisions for a cost-saving deal on health care and other concessions, including approval to hire lower-wage workers for factory jobs outside the assembly line.

That deal, which faces a series of ratification votes by GM workers this week and next, is expected to provide a framework for the union’s labor pacts with Chrysler and Ford. (Reporting by Kevin Krolicki, editing by Tim Dobbyn)