Fiat Chrysler cancels shifts due to strains on utility

FILE PHOTO: A Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) sign is seen at the U.S. headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, U.S. May 25, 2018. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV said on Thursday it was canceling two additional shifts at its Warren Truck and Sterling Heights Assembly plants after CMS Energy Corp made an emergency appeal to users to conserve natural gas following a fire at a compressor station and extremely cold weather.

General Motors Co said it was resuming limited operations Thursday afternoon at five engine, transmission and stamping plants after it had suspended operations at 13 Michigan plants and its Warren Tech Center due to the CMS request.

Ford Motor Co said it had also taken steps to reduce energy use at its four Michigan plants supplied by CMS.

Fiat Chrysler had said Wednesday it would cancel one shift at the plants on Thursday.

The three auto companies said the issue could impact them through Friday.

CMS, the parent company of Consumers Energy, took the unusual step of issuing an urgent appeal to 1.8 million Michigan customers on Wednesday asking them to lower their thermostats until Friday morning to ease the burden on the system due to the fire and record cold weather.

CMS Chief Executive Patricia Poppe said about 79 large users in Michigan including major automakers, other manufacturers and two universities had curtailed their natural gas usage. Along with individual consumers, usage had fallen by about 10 percent over anticipated demand, she said at a news conference on Thursday. She said the system was stable.

Michigan State University said it cut hot water to some buildings and reduced temperatures in some buildings.

The White House National Security Council weighed in on Twitter on Thursday urging people in Michigan to listen to state and local authorities “tonight and tomorrow re natural gas use in the coming days.”

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Phil Berlowitz

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