STATE OF BUSINESS: Rush in the Showrooms

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Dark Cloud. One dark cloud hovers over the industry's hopes for the new-model year. Gradually taking its toll of auto production, the steel strike has forced General Motors to lay off some 12,000 workers, will halt all but three of G.M.'s Chevy assembly plants by Oct. 20, close down all auto production at G.M. by Nov. 1. Chrysler will close down some of its parts and equipment plants this month, will be able to continue assembling cars until early November. Ford has enough steel to continue assembling cars until Nov. 15, but will have to close down some parts and component plants this month.

What bothers Detroit is that the steel mills will not be back to 90% of capacity until six weeks after the strike ends. Even then, auto companies will gobble up the available steel so fast that they will have no chance to replenish their low inventories for four to six months.

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