General Motors Corp. said Tuesday that it will shut down its Leeds, Mo. plant and lay off 1,600 workers by April 15 and stop producing its slumping Oldsmobile and Cadillac J-body cars at the end of the model year.
"GM refers to this as a plant idling, not a plant closing," said Jerry Robbins, a GM spokesman. "Leeds remains available until market conditions and product mix would allow it to be reopened."
However, there was no estimate as to when that might be, Robbins said.
The two cars made exclusively at the Leeds plant, the Oldsmobile Firenza and the Buick Skyhawk, are among the worst-selling models made by GM.
Robbins said the plant was closed because cars made there were not selling.
"That's the bottom line on it," he said. "It's shifting marketplace demand due to an increasing competitive small car market and the popularity of the Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais."
GM planned to end production of the Firenza and Cadillac Cimarron, both J-body cars, after the 1988 model year, Robbins said.
Production of the the Skyhawk would be shifted to Janesville, Wis., which currently makes the Cimarron, he said.
Leeds employed 1,400 hourly workers and 200 salaried workers.
The plant closing had been rumored for months because the Leeds plant is nearly 60 years old, one of the oldest in the GM system.
In July, Missouri Gov. John Ashcroft and Kansas City Mayor Richard Berkley had met with GM Chairman Roger B. Smith in Detroit to stress their willingness to work with the the auto maker in keeping the plant open.
Last February, GM laid off 2,000 workers at Leeds because of high inventories. The auto maker ended one of two shifts at the plant.
GM has nearly finished construction of a huge new plant in neighboring Kansas City, Kan. that will make use of the latest in technology.