This is something that most people don’t consider when they think about car production: how the weather can affect the volume of vehicles coming down the lines.
In January, with the very bad weather that swept across the northern States of the US, one of the energy utilities put out a message to conserve gas because they were worried about supplies. General Motors was asked by the utility company to cease production to help with the flow of the gas. GM shut down eleven plants that included stamping facilities and assembly lines. All workers were asked to stay at home.
Both Ford and FIAT Chrysler also shut down plants in the state, Michigan, along with some parts suppliers. Down this side of the planet we don’t have the extreme swings of temperature that the US and Canada experience and so wouldn’t see this as a reason to suspend production.
However it does provide a very interesting dilemma when you consider that many production workers are on contract: send them home and the worker doesn’t get paid – but does use more gas to heat their dwellings which costs them more! Clearly an assembly plant would consume more gas than 5,000 houses and it would be interesting to see the difference in usage.
The utility in question, CMS Energy Corp, was also hampered by a fire at one of their compression facilities that reduced the amount of gas available when the extreme weather hit the State. It was so bad that the company also asked householders to reduce the temperature on their thermostats to help the hospitals and nursing homes!
On a more practical level, it also removed a load of traffic from the snowbound road systems, and that must be a good thing, helping to reduce the volume of accidents in the poor weather. By shutting down the plants it probably helped the Big Three with their inventories of completed vehicles allowing the dealers to move stock and have them replenished from existing depots.
Mind you, if the weather is that bad, no one would be buying a new vehicle anyway! The shutdowns lasted a few days until the gas supply was brought fully online.