DETROIT -- A top General Motors executive on Wednesday played down speculation that the automaker will close some of its less-efficient vehicle assembly plants in North America.
"If what we're really looking at is the beginning of the next growth boom in our automotive market...then we probably need every piece of assembly capacity that we can get," Troy Clarke, GM's group vice president for manufacturing and labor relations, told reporters.
GM is on track to increase its capacity utilization to 100 percent by mid-decade from 90 percent currently, Clarke said.
Some analysts have speculated that one way GM could increase its capacity utilization would be to close some plants, such as its Baltimore, Md., facility that makes vans.
Clarke noted that its current contract with the United Auto Workers union, which expires in September, impedes automakers from closing U.S. plants.
"The subject of plant closures is one that, during the course of the current UAW agreement, that's not a capability that we have," he said during a conference call discussing GM's results in the Harbour Report on factory efficiency. "We're not looking to push that at this particular point in time."
According to the Harbour Report, GM had at least one plant that had capacity utilization last year of 37 percent, the worst among major automakers in North America. Despite some poorly peforming plants, GM's overall plant productivity increased last year, and GM narrowed the gap with Japanese automakers.
Clarke said that GM will add third shifts to some of its assembly plants. At other facilities that produce vehicles that don't sell as well, the automaker will reduce the line rate, cutting the number of vehicles it makes per day.