Chrysler LLC is adjusting production again at its Belvidere assembly plant, deciding to close the plant next week instead of operating one shift.

Chrysler LLC is adjusting production again at its Belvidere assembly plant, deciding to close the plant next week instead of operating one shift.


The plant was closed from Dec. 19 until Jan. 26, and this week, just one shift is in operation as Chrysler tries to align production with the global slowdown in auto sales.


This week, second-shift workers were off. First-shift workers were to be off next week. About 2,700 people work at the plant making it the largest manufacturing employer in the Rock River Valley.


Chrysler spokesman Max Gates said the company is going to look at production schedules “on a weekly basis for the next couple of months.”


Gates also said rumors at the plant that production was going to be halted in Belvidere permanently are not true.


“We plan to continue making cars in Belvidere,” Gates said.


Chrysler LLC, which is working on an alliance with Italian-based Fiat, released its January sales figures earlier this week. The company fared the worst of all major automakers doing business in the U.S. with sales down 54.8 percent compared with January 2008. Much of that decline though was because of major reduction in fleet sales — rental-car companies or business fleets.


Sales of the vehicles made in Belvidere — the Dodge Caliber, Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot — were even worse with shipments to U.S. dealerships falling nearly 61 percent.


Financially, the on-again, off-again schedules are more of a hassle to the Chrysler workers.


Because of the UAW contracts, they receive supplemental pay along with unemployment that brings total pay near what it would be if they were working a full week. But the workers have to apply for unemployment and there is a delay on payments so it does strain budgets.


The shutdown is more of a loss to the several supplier companies near the plant that also shutdown when the plant is out of operation. Those workers don’t receive the supplemental pay to bolster unemployment.


The extended shutdowns already have cut back the number of vehicles coming out of the plant.


Workers finished 9,681 Calibers, Compasses and Patriots in December. In January, in the one week of production, they turned out just 4,752, the lowest total since January 2006 when the Caliber was in its first month of production.


Alex Gary can be reached at agary@rrstar.com or at (815) 987-1339.