US automakers to shut North American plants due to virus
Detroit: US automakers announced Wednesday they will temporarily shut down North American production as the economic hit from the coronavirus spreads to manufacturing.
The "Big Three" car makers -- General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and Ford -- will halt operations throughout North America through the end of the month, the companies announced in conjunction with the United Auto Workers.
The move comes only hours after the companies had previously said the plants would be kept open with modified procedures to employ social distancing in manufacturing.
But that plan quickly fell by the wayside as the number of coronavirus cases in the US rises.
UAW officials admitted privately they were facing a situation where absenteeism was increasing as schools closed in states such as Michigan and Ohio. In addition, employees were refusing to work after co-workers tested positive for the virus.
"Today's action is the prudent thing to do. By taking a shutdown and working through next steps, we protect UAW members, their families and the community," UAW President Rory Gamble said in a statement with Ford.
"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 Chief Executive 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."
Ford closed an assembly plant in Michigan on Wednesday morning after an employee tested positive and "is thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting the building," the statement said.
The shutdowns also reached into Canada where Unifor, the union representing Canadian workers also had been under pressure to withdraw the labor of its members.
Jessica Caldwell of described the announcement as "a seismic move by the Detroit 3, but also a commendable one." - AFP
"These automakers are currently well-stocked with inventory and as more of the country moves to follow shelter-in-place orders, vehicle sales will inevitably be softer," she said in a note.
"But if the proposed stimulus package ends up moving through the Senate, this could help sales get to a bit of a healthier place when normal life resumes." - AFP