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Sat, Aug 23, 2003 - Page 12 News List

Automakers toss out over 1,000 cars due to blackout

AP , DETROIT

More than 1,000 new vehicles and parts, which were moving down production lines when the power went out last week at more than 50 auto plants, have been scrapped due to quality concerns, company executives said.

Cars and trucks were left half-painted, robotic welding arms left some joints only partially joined and many parts were dropped on the floor when the vacuum-powered suction arms that lift and move them lost their hold during the blackout last Thursday.

When the plants reopened Monday, the automakers couldn't finish the work on the line if they wanted to guarantee a quality product.

Frank Ewasyshyn, a senior vice president at Chrysler Group, told reporters that he estimated the US operating unit of DaimlerChrysler AG lost production of 10,000 vehicles during the outage. No financial estimate was available.

"The No. 1 objective was to protect the consumer," Ewasyshyn said. "If you're in doubt, throw it away."

Neither General Motors Corp nor Ford Motor Co would release figures on how much production was lost during the outage or its cost. But both said they faced a similar situation.

"We did do some vehicle scrapping," said GM spokesman Dan Flores. "We took a look at each job in process, inspected each vehicle ... We're not going to ship any vehicles that could have issues in the future."

The biggest losses were in paint shops, automakers reported. In that section of the plant, vehicles travel through multiple stages of chemical dips and sprays, with oven drying in between. The process is closely timed, and the temperature and humidity is tightly controlled, so the paint adheres properly to the metal under all sorts of conditions.

The outage left some parts soaking in chemicals that may have damaged the metal.

Detroit's Big Three automakers have said they could make up the lost production with overtime after the outage closed 54 plants for several days last week.

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