PR from AP: Wire Service Lets GM, Chrysler Make Vague, Unchallenged, Numbers-Free Plant Rehiring References

January 11th, 2010 2:41 PM

Executives from Government/General Motors and Chrysler are at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit vaguely holding forth on the prospect of reopening previously shuttered production facilities.

Uh, don't sales have to start heading seriously upward before that happens?

Apparently the Associated Press's Tom Krisher, who has his hands in separate stories on the two companies, and Jeff Karoub, who is co-spokesman -- er, co-author -- of the report on Chrysler, aren't asking that question.

Here are selected paragraphs from Krisher's report on GM's non-announcement announcement:

GM may reopen some factories to meet higher demand

General Motors Co. may reopen some shuttered factories because it can't produce certain vehicles fast enough, its North American president said Monday.

Mark Reuss told reporters at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit that plants building the Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain and Cadillac SRX crossover vehicles and the Buick LaCrosse sedan are at capacity and can't satisfy demand.

Reuss mentioned an idled factory in Spring Hill, Tenn., but stopped short of saying any plants would be reopened.

He said if he does his job right and restores faith in the GM brands, the company could hire workers again. In the short term, he said the company will try to raise output at existing plants.

The Terrain and Equinox are made at a factory in Ingersoll, Ontario, while the LaCrosse is built in Kansas City, Kan. The SRX is made in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico.

Reuss said he will meet with GM's manufacturing and sales executives next week to see if they can figure out how to squeeze more vehicles out of the existing plants for the short term.

For the long term, he said he doesn't like GM to have factories idled.

The models Reuss cites are growing, but plenty of others aren't. A quick review of the detail at the Wall Street Journal's December car sales report indicates that the Chevy Silverado's December 2009 sales barely matched the depressed sales level of December 2008, while the Chevy Impala's December sales were down 35.6%. The company has reported that sales of its core brands were up 13% over November, but its total calendar 2009 sales trailed calendar 2008 by a whopping 30%. Yet there is no evidence of skepticism on Krisher's part, let alone any citation of any real numbers.

In a separate story, Sergio Marchionne of Chrysler part-owner Fiat sang the same tune to Krisher and Karoub about that company's prospects:

Chrysler may rehire workers if sales forecasts met

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says the automaker will start hiring production workers again if it sells enough cars and trucks.

Marchionne said at the Detroit auto show Monday that Chrysler Group LLC is revamping its models and will need more engineering and development workers. He says the company doesn't have the manpower at present to accomplish what it wants to do.

He didn't give a time frame for hiring more production workers but says it will depend on meeting its own sales projections.

Marchionne also says Chrysler still has cash reserves and is performing slightly better than expected despite a very difficult 2009.

The same WSJ resource indicates that Chrysler had a decent December, moving over 86,000 units after several months in the 60s and 70s. The problem is that according to an industry observer at quoted in a separate WSJ article, "almost half" of Chrysler's December volume probably came from low-margin "sales to fleets such as car-rental concerns," a percentage of fleet dependence that was probably double that of GM and Ford. This could indicate that the company was desperate to show some kind of decent sales volume after a nearly unbroken year-long string of monthly year-over-year declines of 30% or more. Chrysler's December was down only 4% from December 2008, but its sales for all of 2009 trailed 2008 by a staggering 36%.

Meanwhile, a separate Karoub and Krisher report from the affair notes that Ford is stealing the show, in one case on the energy-efficient turf GM and Chrysler that is supposedly going to be their specialty:

Ford Fusion Hybrid wins 2010 car of year award

Ford Motor Co.'s market momentum got a lift Monday by winning both the 2010 North American Car and Truck of the Year awards.

Ford's Fusion Hybrid midsize sedan took top car honors and its versatile Transit Connect compact van snagged truck of the year at the Detroit auto show.

Last month, Ford announced concrete plans to increase production by 58%. As noted in a previous post (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), Krisher and AP colleague Dee-Ann Durbin, in covering Ford's November sales, relegated that real news to their report's final paragraph.

Cross-posted at