Detroit Automakers to Close US Plants Through the End of the Month
General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles all plan to temporarily halt or reduce production at vehicles plants in the U.S. for several weeks, beginning this week, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The sudden announcement by the three major automaker comes a day after a tentative agreement with the UAW to keep some shifts running during the month of March, after the UAW voiced concern for worker safety in plants, including making a few veiled threats toward automakers in the media. Today’s agreement goes far beyond that initial deal just a day prior, shutting down production through the end of March. With 45 days of inventory being the ideal, maybe being down for 13 days won’t do too much damage at the dealerships, if they stay open.
Ford plans to temporarily halt production in North America until March 30, the automaker said, in order to protect its workers and to thoroughly clean its assembly facilities during the downtime. The company had already closed its Michigan Assembly Plant final assembly facility after a worker tested positive for COVID-19. Ford’s decision comes on the heels of an announcement that it will close all facilities in Europe, including the Cologne and Saarlouis plants in Germany and its Craiova plant in Romania.
The automaker also plans to work to find ways to increase social distancing during working hours and also during shift changes.
“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,” said Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s president of North America. “In these unprecedented times, we’re exploring unique and creative solutions to support our workforce, customers, dealers, suppliers and communities.”
Likewise, General Motors also plans to suspend its manufacturing operations in North America until March 30, citing both market conditions and the need to protect its workforce. The automaker indicated that it also plans to deep-clean its plants during this downtime.
“GM and the UAW have always put the health and safety of the people entering GM plants first, and we have agreed to a systematic, orderly suspension of production to aid in fighting COVID-19/coronavirus,” said GM chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “We have been taking extraordinary precautions around the world to keep our plant environments safe and recent developments in North America make it clear this is the right thing to do now. I appreciate the teamwork of UAW president Rory Gamble, UAW vice president Terry Dittes and local leadership as we take this unprecedented step.”
FCA, which already suspended production at its plants in Italy, is expected to announce a U.S. production suspension, as well.
Other automakers, including Honda, have also announced production halts at their plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, starting next Monday and lasting through the end of the month. Honda has plants in Ohio, Alabama, Indiana and Georgia, in addition to three other plants in Mexico and Canada.
“Honda will suspend production for six days beginning March 23, with current plans to return to production on Tuesday, March 31,” the automaker said on Wednesday, March 18. “Honda transmission and engine plants in North America that serve Honda auto plants also will suspend production for the same time period. Honda will reduce production by approximately 40,000 vehicles during these six days.”
Honda noted that it plans to maintain full pay for all of its 27,600 employees in the U.S. during the downtime and will also conduct a thorough cleaning of its facilities.
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