The coronavirus outbreak in the United States continues to claim auto industry casualties. Last week, the United Auto Workers union’s pressure on the Detroit 3 automakers culminated in closures. FCA North America, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors all announced that they would shut down production temporarily at their North American factories.
The news of the shutdown came about after a worker in Ford’s Dearborn, MI truck plant received a positive test result for the COVID-19 virus. Since then, one employee at FCA’s Auburn Hills headquarters has tested passed away after testing positive for the novel coronavirus last week.
On March 18th, FCA CEO, Mike Manley said, “Working with the UAW, and having visited many of our plants yesterday, we need to ensure employees feel safe at work and that we are taking every step possible to protect them. We will continue to do what is right for our people through this period of uncertainty.”
The same day, Ford’s president of North America, Kumar Galhotra, said in a company statement, “We’re continuing to work closely with union leaders, especially the United Auto Workers, to find ways to help keep our workforce healthy and safe – even as we look at solutions for continuing to provide the vehicles customers really want and need. In these unprecedented times, we’re exploring unique and creative solutions to support our workforce, customers, dealers, suppliers and communities.”
Which Manufacturers Have Suspended Production?
Nearly all automotive manufacturers have announced closures to date, beyond the Detroit 3. They include:
- American Honda Motor Company has suspended production beginning Monday, March 23 for six business days. They plan to return to production on Tuesday, March 31.
- Toyota Motor Corporation has extended their manufacturing closure from March 23 through April 5, expecting to restart on April 6. This applies to their US, Mexico, and Canada plants.
- Nissan North America has a similar shutdown to Toyota, expecting manufacturing facilities to resume April 6.
- Ford Motor Company suspended production un North American manufacturing sites until March 30.
- General Motors has closed North American plants until at least March 30 to complete a deep clean of their facilities and protect their people.
- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced that all plants will cease production in North America through the end of March.
Until March 23rd, Tesla has remained a holdout for a factory shutdown. The California-based electric car company finally made the call to shut down production on the 23rd after being deemed a non-essential business.
What It Means for Auto Workers
All manufacturers have stated that shutdowns are for the health and safety of their workforce, first and foremost. They’ll take the time to perform a deep clean and sanitation, and many will take the opportunity to perform upgrades on facilities.
In total, around one million workers will be affected by temporary assembly plant closures in the United States alone. Of the auto workers laid off in the meantime, most will qualify for unemployment and financial assistance programs. Unfortunately, the concern will be about who has jobs to go back to as the auto retail industry is now expecting a steep decline in sales for 2020.
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