KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) -- Members of a United Auto Workers union local went on strike Monday at General Motors' Fairfax facility -- hitting the plant that makes GM's popular Malibu sedan.
During talks over the weekend, UAW Local 31 set a Monday morning strike deadline because union negotiators believed the two sides remained far from an agreement. The Fairfax plant employs more than 2,500 UAW members.
The plant makes the Chevrolet Malibu, a medium-sized sedan that was named ''Car of the Year'' at this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The strike hits a key GM product at a time when the company can ill afford it. Last week GM announced that it lost $3.3 billion in the first quarter, due largely to one-time charges and North American losses that offset gains in the rest of the world.
With truck and sport utility vehicle sales dropping, the redesigned 2008 Malibu at Fairfax has been a bright spot for GM.
From January through April, GM had sold 58,126 Malibus, up 32 percent from the same period last year. Sales were up 55 percent in April. A strike will crimp production and could hurt GM's profits, although the company makes the Malibu at another factory in Orion Township, Mich. Workers at that plant have approved a local contract.
GM spokesman Dan Flores in Detroit said the company is disappointed that the union chose to walk out.
He said GM will look at boosting Malibu production at the Orion plant.
''As a result of the strike we will be looking at all of our options, but our main focus is to continue the bargaining and reach an agreement as soon as we can,'' he said.
A GM plant in Delta Township near Lansing that makes strong-selling crossover vehicles went on strike April 17, and other UAW locals in Wyoming and Warren, Mich., and Mansfield, Ohio, are negotiating. They say the will give GM 12-hour notice if they plan to strike.
Industry analysts speculate that the strikes are an effort by the UAW to get GM to coax American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc. into ending a bitter nine-week strike there.
GM accounts for 80 percent of American Axle's parts business. About 3,600 UAW workers at five American Axle plants have been on strike since Feb. 26. Negotiations are continuing and progress has been reported.
Flores would not comment when asked if he thinks the strike is related to the American Axle walkout.
American Axle spokeswoman Renee Rogers said Monday that negotiators met Sunday and talk again Monday. Last week union leaders told members on the picket lines that they were edging closer to an agreement.
The American Axle strike has curtailed production at about 30 GM factories due to parts shortages, mainly for pickup trucks and large sport utility vehicles.
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger has said disputes at the GM plants are about local contract issues and have nothing to do with American Axle.