General Motors has announced that it will expand plans to temporarily close assembly plants in North America in April and May. The move is aimed at reducing the company's large inventory of light vehicles and comes amidst growing fears that the slowdown in the US economy and vehicle market will be sharper than planners previously thought. The plants affected are in Maryland, Wisconsin, Quebec and Ontario.

In the weeks of April 2 and April 9, the company will idle the medium- duty truck production line in Janesville, Wisconsin. The Baltimore full-size van plant will close for the week starting May 7. In Canada, General Motors will close its Ste. Therese, Quebec, factory for two weeks beginning April 16 and idle its Oshawa, Ontario, factory for two weeks beginning April 30.

These temporary shutdowns are in addition to plans announced by GM in February to intermittently close 14 North American factories and assembly lines through the first half of the year, in order to cut production. GM plans to lower second-quarter production by 17 percent from the year-earlier period. Ford, GM's major US market rival, is aiming for a reduction of just 5% in the same period.

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