Weekend shifts and skipped lunch breaks apparently haven't helped General Motors squeeze enough additional midsize pickups out of its plant near St. Louis.
After spending the past year trying to wring more production from its Wentzville, Mo., plant, GM is considering a partnership with contract manufacturer AM General to take on some of GM's commercial-van production, according to an internal notice to plant workers last week.
The move would free capacity at Wentzville to produce more of GM's hot-selling Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups.
GM began production of those pickups in the summer of 2014 and has been scrambling to keep up with demand ever since. It added a third shift early this year and has had the plant on overtime for months. Last spring, workers even agreed to rejigger their break times to eliminate a six-minute lull between shifts.
The notice to Wentzville workers said GM is "studying a partnership" with Indiana-based AM General to begin production of cutaway models of the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana cargo vans built there.
Cutaway models, incomplete versions that are sold to upfitters for conversion into ambulances and other special-purpose vehicles, account for nearly a third of the more than 100,000 commercial vans that will have been built at Wentzville by year end, according to a person familiar with the matter. Based on those figures, the move could theoretically clear the way for roughly 30,000 more Colorados and Canyons a year.
It's unclear how quickly AM General could assume production. Spokespersons for both companies declined to comment.
AM General has been expanding its U.S. contract manufacturing business this year. In August, its Mishawaka, Ind., plant began producing the Mercedes-Benz R-class crossover under a multiyear contract. That move freed capacity at Mercedes' plant in Vance, Ala., for increased production of several other models.