Big Three Automakers to Stop Production to Protect Against COVID-19

General Motors Co. in Detroit, Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Auburn Hills announced changes to their manufacturing operations to reduce the spread of COVID-19

Mike Manley and workers at Sterling Heights Assembly Plant
Mike Manley, CEO of FCA, meets with workers at the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant. Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

General Motors Co. in Detroit and Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn are stopping production at their North American plants until at least the end of March, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Auburn Hills will wind down its manufacturing operations by the end of the month to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The suspensions will last until at least March 30. Production status will be reevaluated week-to-week after that.

“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,” says Mary Barra, chairman and CEO of General Motors. “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.”

To ensure that production stops in a safe and orderly fashion, plants will suspend operations in a cadence, with each facility receiving specific instructions from manufacturing leadership.

Ford earlier had announced it is temporarily suspending vehicle and engine production at its manufacturing sites in continental Europe in response to the growing impact of the Coronavirus. Effective from Thursday, March 19, it is expected the action will continue for a number of weeks.

In addition, Ford was facing a shutdown of its critical Chicago assembly plant because of a parts shortage that was created by an outbreak of COVID-19 at a Lear plant that builds seats for Ford.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Auburn Hills has implemented shift pattern and production changes across its manufacturing plants in the U.S. in an effort to protect employees against COVID-19.

The changes include rotating shifts to allow for greater separation of employees and further enhancing new sanitation protocols. They were made after several days of discussions with UAW leaders.

FCA is continuing to work on fulfilling North American orders from fleet and dealer partners.

“I spent time today with a number of our employees in our assembly and stamping plants,” says Mike Manley, CEO. “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.”

In related news, ALG, a subsidiary of TrueCar, today updated its 2020 new vehicle sales forecast. The new projection notes there could be a major downshift in car sales in what could be a long-term economic slowdown due to COVID-19.

ALG forecasts a 14.2 percent decline in new vehicle sales, down 2.4 million units from ALG’s initial 2020 forecast and down 14.9 percent from 2019 sales.