Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has once again extended the life of the third shift at its minivan assembly plant in Windsor, Ontario, saying it will operate until the end of the first quarter in 2020.
After that, the automaker will “continue to review the feasibility of maintaining the shift,” FCA Canada spokeswoman LouAnn Gosselin said in a statement.
She wouldn’t say why the decision to extend the shift was made.
“I cannot comment beyond the statement,” she said.
In October, FCA extended the life of the third shift at its Windsor minivan plant “until further notice.”
The automaker has changed the shift’s end date four times since it first announced its planned demise during the summer. It was originally going to end sometime around Sept. 27. FCA then extended the shift’s life by three weeks — until Oct. 21 — “to accommodate a large order,” the company said at the time.
FCA subsequently extended the shift’s life until the end of the year, but didn’t — and still will not — offer a hard end date. Now, it will operate with regularity until the end of March 2020.
Canadian sales of the Dodge Grand Caravan are down an estimated 17 percent to 24,202 units through October while Chrysler Pacifica sales have dropped an estimated 39 percent to 3,401 units through the same time.
In the United States Grand Caravan sales are down an estimated 17 percent to 109,844 vehicles while Pacifica sales are off an estimated 23 percent to 77,441 units, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
“The company will review the business case for maintaining the third shift on a month to month basis going forward,” said David Cassidy, president of Unifor Local 444, which represents about 6,000 hourly workers at the plant. “The auto industry is already on shaky ground, but the company continues to look to maintain the third shift.”
The extension through March does not mean the shift is saved.
“We will continue to push the company to rescind the third shift cancellation letter as they have yet to do so,” Cassidy said.
He called the guaranteed work for the next four months “a good breath of fresh air for us and a good news story.” But Cassidy called the entire process “terrible.”
“There’s a lot of anxiety in the plant. A lot of people live paycheck to paycheck not knowing if they’re going to have a job tomorrow. Morale is down,” he said. “It’s no secret that we still need a new product.”
Cassidy said the automaker hasn’t “solidified any new product with us, yet.”
FCA won’t comment on future product.
Cassidy said its not likely FCA would announce anything until contract negotiations with the UAW in the United States end. Unifor is scheduled to begin its bargaining with FCA next year.