Crossover production at General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. has been hard hit by an Indian parts shortage this month because those vehicles share the same six-speed automatic transmission.
The co-development by Ford and GM of a new six-speed transmission was heralded as a money-saver when it was announced in 2002. Instead of each company racing to develop the fuel-saving technology separately, they decided to share the nearly $720 million investment and even use the same suppliers.
But that collaboration has left them equally susceptible to a parts shortage by a single supplier in India.
Labor strife at Rico Auto Industries near New Delhi has caused shortages of enough transmission components to close Ford's Oakville, Ontario, crossover plant this week and GM's Delta Township, Mich., crossover plant next week.
Oakville builds the Ford Edge and Flex and the Lincoln MKX and MKT. Delta Township builds the GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave and is being retooled for the Chevrolet Traverse.
Each of those vehicles uses the co-developed six-speed automatic transmission that Ford and GM make at separately owned and operated transmission plants in suburban Detroit.
A 'fluid situation' at Ford
While Ford has scheduled Oakville to return to full production Monday, there's a good chance the plant will have to close again by midweek because of continuing parts shortages from Rico, said Scott McColeman, shop chairman for Local 707 of the Canadian Auto Workers.
McColeman said some of the six-speed automatic transmissions that normally would be going to Oakville were diverted this week to Ford's Chicago plant so the company could continue to crank out its hot new Taurus sedan.
Ford spokesman Todd Nissen said the company is monitoring the Rico shortages daily. But Ford plans to reopen Oakville on Monday and build the transmissions at its Van Dyke plant in suburban Detroit.
“It is a very fluid situation,” Nissen said.
The president of the UAW local that builds the GM transmission also is worried.
Ghana Goodwin-Dye, president of Local 909 at GM's Warren transmission plant, said today that all of the plant's six-speed transmission production might go down Monday instead of just the second shift that GM announced. The plant also builds four-speed transmissions, which are not affected by the Rico parts shortage.
Lost GM production
Goodwin-Dye said the shortage could hurt other GM models because that transmission is used in the Chevrolet Malibu, Pontiac G6 and Saturn Aura. GM spokeswoman Kim Carpenter said the Delta Township plant will be down for a week and resume production Nov. 9.
GM's Warren transmission plant will continue to operate the day shift but not the night shift, Carpenter said.
GM builds about 900 Enclaves and Acadias a day or about 3,600 in a four-day week of 10-hour shifts. The plant is on a two-shift schedule.
Rico production has been crimped this month by labor violence and a series of strikes at its operations in Gurgaon, 30 miles outside of New Delhi.
The strife escalated after the Oct. 18 death of a Rico employee during a clash between temporary workers and factory staff, said a source familiar with the situation. A local court ruled a strike there illegal, but too many workers remain off the job to produce the quantity of parts required by GM, the source said.
A Rico representative in London said yesterday that the company is in constant contact with Ford and is producing parts for the automaker. He said he could not discuss the GM situation because Rico handles GM matters in other offices. Attempts to reach other Rico officials in the United States and India were unsuccessful.