Toyota decision to cost workers at Brewer plant overtime hours

Posted Jan. 28, 2010, at 8:57 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — Somic America Inc.’s manufacturing plant in Brewer has eliminated overtime hours for its 120 workers this week and next in response to Toyota’s recall and halt of sales of millions of vehicles, a Somic official said Thursday.

Somic makes several million steering and suspension components annually for all Toyota Camry, Corolla, Matrix hatchback, RAV4 and Tundra models assembled at the five Toyota factories in the U.S. and Canada, said David Keane, company vice president.

Some of those vehicles are on the stop-sale and recall lists because they have a possibly sticky accelerator pedal supplied by CTS Corp. of Elkhart, Ind., and assembled in a Canadian plant. Toyota fears the pedal might cause sudden accelerations.

Despite the breadth of the recall, Somic’s plant at 6 Baker Blvd. won’t feel much of an effect, Keane said.

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“We have looked at our production schedules and don’t anticipate any significant change at all,” Keane said Thursday. “Toyota has responded very aggressively as a show of their commitment to safety and they will also get production back up and running very quickly, for sure.”

Production of the newest versions of those vehicles will halt, Keane said, but not for long. On Thursday, CTS and Toyota announced that a redesigned accelerator pedal already is being manufactured. It will start being added to Toyotas as soon as possible.

Keane is hopeful that things will be back to normal in a few weeks.

Somic workers have had uninterrupted access to overtime since September. That’s when the federal government’s $1 billion cash for clunkers vehicle program, in which consumers got $3,500 or $4,500 per trade-in of fuel-guzzling clunkers for new cars with better gas mileage, reduced Toyota’s inventories to record lows, Keane said.

“We had been working many Saturdays and some additional overtime hours each day for many of our workers,” he said. “The demand has been quite high since September.”

Formerly known as Brewer Automotive Components, the Brewer facility opened in 1989 and a sister plant opened in Wytheville, Va., three years later, as a partnership between ZF Group North America, based in Northville, Mich., and Somic Ishikawa Inc. of Hamamatsu, Japan, another leading parts manufacturer.

Somic America was created when BAC merged with sister company Wytheville Technologies Inc. in Virginia earlier this month.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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