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GM cuts output, lays off workers in N.Y.

AGMemployee in Tonawanda, N.Y., in 2009. The company has been adversely affected by the disaster in Japan. AGMemployee in Tonawanda, N.Y., in 2009. The company has been adversely affected by the disaster in Japan. (Don Heupel/ Associated Press/ File)
By Dee-Ann Durbin
Associated Press / March 22, 2011

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DETROIT — General Motors Co. began halting some production and temporarily laying off workers yesterday at a Buffalo engine plant, another sign that Japan’s disaster is affecting automakers around the globe.

GM is suspending production of engines built at its Tonawanda plant for the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon compact pickups, which are assembled at a GM factory in Shreveport, La. GM shut down its Shreveport operation this week because of a shortage of parts from Japan.

GM doesn’t know when production will resume at either plant.

This latest shutdown at GM shows how interdependent the world’s car makers have become. GM last week became the first US-based car company to say it would suspend production because of Japanese parts shortages. Toyota and Subaru are scaling back production at US plants because they depend on imports from Japan, whose car industry was hobbled March 11 after that nation’s largest known earthquake and tsunami.

Even though damage at Japanese auto plants was limited, uncertainty lingers. Factories are unlikely to return to full production for months, hindered by unreliable power supplies and extensive damage to some parts suppliers.

GM spokeswoman Kim Carpenter said Tonawanda has the parts it needs to make the engines, but it is not producing them because Shreveport doesn’t need them.

Carpenter said 59 of the 623 workers at the engine plant will be affected. Workers will get about 75 percent of their pay while laid off.

GM hasn’t said which parts are affected in Louisiana. Automakers tend to withhold such information for competitive reasons.

GM uses a five-speed manual transmission made by Japanese supplier Aisin Seiki Co. in the Canyon and Colorado, but Aisin said last week that it has enough transmissions and parts to continue supplying GM and hasn’t shut down any of its plants in North America.