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2008-11-14 11:21

Riana de Lange

Port Elizabeth - Rising stockpiles and the sharp decline in domestic demand for new vehicles are forcing vehicle assembly plants to shut down for longer than usual this December.

Workers at General Motors South Africa (GMSA) and Ford in Port Elizabeth, as well as at Nissan's Rosslyn factory will spend more time at home this holiday period than in previous years.

GMSA's two factories in Port Elizabeth will shut on December 12 and re-open a month later.Denise van Huysteen, communications manager for the company's Africa operations, explains that this is a week longer than normal, and is being done to bring the inventory into line with market demand.

The two factories produce the Corsa Utility, Isuzu KB and Hummer.

Port Elizabeth's Ford plant, where RoCam engines are manufactured, will close for an additional two weeks because of declining volumes, said spokesperson Reila Bernardes. It will close on November 28 and re-open on January 6.

Operations at the Silverton plant, where vehicles like the Ford Focus and Ranger are assembled, would proceed normally.

Nissan's group director for human resources, Dr Henry Grimbeek, says the factory will cease operations for a month from December 5 to balance stock levels and output, as the factory did not close for the normal few days mid-year.

The East London Mercedes-Benz factory will shut on December 11, half a day earlier than usual, and open on January 7, as planned, according to a spokesperson.

Manufacturers' truncated working year is the result of increasing pressure on the motor industry. In October total new vehicle sales were more than 31% down on the same month last year.

McCarthy CE Brand Pretorius this week stated that the industry could expect a further 5% to 10% decline in vehicle sales to the end of 2009.

On Wednesday economist Mike Schüssler reckoned that the export side of the domestic motor industry, which so far has kept its head above water, would also begin to feel the economic pinch in the wake of falling sales in the US and Europe.

He referred to the Daimler factories in Europe, which had also decided to shut down production for about five weeks over December.

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