Snow, ice hamper auto production in the South

A car is towed off of Interstate 75 earlier today near Marietta, Ga. Warmer weather was poised to roll over the U.S. South, bringing relief after a paralyzing ice storm that affected auto production. Photo credit: Reuters

DETROIT -- Auto plants in the southeastern United States, where cities were gridlocked by snow and ice this week, canceled some shifts, and parts shortages caused by the storms have slowed production in other regions of the country.

Hyundai, Kia, Honda and Mercedes-Benz closed their plants in Alabama and Georgia when the storms hit Tuesday, causing countless drivers to abandon their cars on freeways and stranding thousands of children in Atlanta schools overnight.

Ford Motor Co. said some of its plants have adjusted their schedules because parts from suppliers in the Southeast are running low. Ford spokeswoman Kristina Adamski said the problems are not expected to result in significant lost production. She declined to say which plants were affected but said none were completely shut down.

"They're rerouting shipments around Atlanta and other places," Adamski said. "Generally, the reports that we're seeing are that most [plants] are running the way that they should be."

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing in Montgomery, Ala., canceled five production shifts but has since reopened. A spokesman said the company had not decided how or whether the lost production would be made up. The plant builds the Hyundai Elantra and Sonata on three shifts.

The Kia Motors Manufacturing plant in West Point, Ga., 81 miles southwest of Atlanta, closed before the second shift on Tuesday and reopened this morning. A spokeswoman said the shifts would be made up at a later date. Kia builds the Optima, Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe on three shifts in West Point.

The Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Ala., missed a day and a half of production before opening for a short shift this morning and ramping up to full production during the second shift. The plant, near Tuscaloosa, builds the Mercedes GL, M and R class.

American Honda's plant in Lincoln, Ala., which builds the Honda Odyssey, Pilot and Ridgeline and Acura MDX, also closed because of the weather.

Nissan North America said its plants in Smyrna, Tenn., and Canton, Miss., have kept their regular schedules all week.

Many workers at auto plants in the Southeast have lengthy commutes, and the ice made it difficult or impossible for them to report to work. Many interstate highways in the region were shut down, and road crews were hindered by abandoned vehicles as they worked to plow and salt ice-covered lanes.

Ford and General Motors each used to have plants in metropolitan Atlanta, but they closed as part of restructuring efforts in the mid-2000s.

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