Hyundai Cuts Production Shifts For Next Three Weeks

Montgomery's largest manufacturing plant is scaling back production for a short while.

For the first time since Hyundai opened its plant in 2005, it's ordering major cutbacks in employee schedules.

The company confirmed late today its sending workers home tomorrow and for the next two Fridays in october, which means a 20% cut in worker incomes for the next three weeks.

Worse, at least one of Hyundai's American business partners say the company has treated them badly before the official word came down.

The Hyundai contractor says he's speaking out about the auto builder not because of spite but because he's worried about the future for Hyundai's American business partners.

Workers say word went around Hyundai's plant for the last two days - quietly - with no written confirmation, then it filtered down to people like two tier one employees.

"They told us they were shutting down early and they were letting us off," said one worker.

Most understand why Hyundai is cutting production. The company set a goal of selling 550-thousand cars in the US this year. It later dropped that number to 510-thousand, but the latest projections show it may not sell even 450-thousand units.

"We haven't really been given any explanation as to's just the car business. That's what we're told," another employee said.

All of our interviews are anonymous, because they say Korean executives are ruthless in fending off media coverage. Anyone defying that risks retaliation.

"I know pretty much every major player within HMMA."

The speaker is a high ranking contractor with Hyundai.

He does millions in business with the company. He's not happy with how he learned about the shutdown, which will cost him money.

"Even though we have a shutdown tomorrow, we have yet to receive a memo or an email. The employees heard it about through team leads on the floor," he said.  "That's how we heard this information two days ago."

The contractor says it's a perfect example of how the company treats American employees and business partners.

"The Korean management has continuously withheld information, and they're notorious for not making decisions, not being upfront and honest with American management," he said.

Late this afternoon, Hyundai finally confirmed what its workers told us.

"We'll have a reduction in staff, rather, a reduction in schedule Friday, October 5th, Friday, October 12th and October 19th, said Hyundai Spokesman Robert Burns.

But for some people, like our contractor, the bond of trust is broken. He's worried about the near - and long term - future.

"It's an overwhelming insight that HMMA is rolling this out in small doses with the ultimate goal of shutting the plant down every Friday for the remainder of the year," he said.

That last line is the contractor's own speculation. The company isn't confirming any other shutdowns this year.

This isn't the first time someone has cited a culture clash for causing problems at Hyundai.

When Chief Operating Officer Steve Wilhite resigned last week, several national automotive publications reported Wilhite had a difficult relationship with Korean executives in the company.

One unnamed interview said what our contractor said American executives are not fully empowered and that they are often overruled.

We spoke with two Mobis employees at lunch today.  They also confirmed the tier one supplier is shutting down for the next three Fridays.

So did two employees from Globis, the company's closest tier one supplier.