Detroit automakers to suspend production amid coronavirus concerns

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Steven Husk/Adobe Stock

With many around the country (and world) currently self-quarantining per recommendations by health organizations or by government mandate, there may not be as many cars on the road as there usually are (there is certainly far less red on rush-hour traffic maps these days).

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In addition, there won’t be as many cars going through the manufacturing line, either.

After holding talks with United Auto Workers (UAW) leaders, Detroit automakers announced they will temporarily close production lines amid the health crisis.

General Motors said it would “begin a systematic orderly suspension of manufacturing operations in North America due to market conditions” that would last until at least March 30. During that time, it will conduct deep cleaning of its facilities.

“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,” GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said. “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.”

The closure comes just months after a 40-day UAW strike impacted GM’s operations significantly in Q4 2019.

Fiat Chrysler also announced measures aimed at protecting workers amid the health crisis, saying it will “implement a series of shift pattern and production changes across” its U.S. manufacturing plants.

“I spent time today with a number of our employees in our assembly and stamping plants,” Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley said. “I wanted to see for myself how we are implementing our new cleaning and workplace protocols, and be assured that we are putting their welfare first as we continue to support the effort to arrest the spread of this virus. Ultimately this will pass, and when it does, it is important to me that we can say we worked hard with our UAW partners to provide the safest work environment for our people.”

Similarly, Ford announced its own coronavirus-related protection measures, including a suspension of production at its North American sites until at least March 30.

“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.”

Ford also announced it is temporarily pausing all production in continental Europe, effective March 19.

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“While the impact of coronavirus at our facilities so far has been limited thankfully, its effects on our employees, dealers, suppliers and customers, as well as European society as a whole, is unprecedented,” said Stuart Rowley, president of Ford of Europe. “Due to the dramatic impact this ongoing crisis is having on the European market and the supplier industry – together with the recent actions by countries to restrict all but essential travel and personal contact – we are temporarily halting production at our main continental Europe manufacturing sites.”

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