The Associated Press (AP) is reporting that Detroit’s “Big-Three” automakers will close their factories as early as today. This morning, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) announced it was closing its Sterling Heights Assembly Plant (SHAP) after a worker tested positive for COVID-19 (or Coronavirus). The United Auto Workers (UAW) and FCA, General Motors (GM), and Ford had created a task force to help protect their employees at their facilities while keeping the manufacturing process open.
Yesterday, FCA CEO Mike Manley spent the day traveling to several of the company’s facilities across southeast Michigan. Manley commented, “I spent time today with a number of our employees in our assembly and stamping plants. 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.”
FCA closed several of its European plants due to the intense situation in Italy and its surrounding areas. Several UAW employees questioned why the North American plants were not doing the same thing, for two weeks, to allow the plants to be thoroughly cleaned and give their employees more time to social distance themselves from one another.
Ford also announced that it was also closing it’s Michigan Assembly Plant, the plant that currently builds the Ford Ranger and the upcoming Jeep® Wrangler competitor, the Ford Bronco; after an employee, there tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
Sources are saying that FCA was planning on making an announcement earlier today, however, GM and Ford will be joining them in announcing the temporary closures of its facilities. It is unknown, how long the shutdowns will last.
Honda and BMW have also announced similar closures at their plants across North America.
UPDATE: FCA has released an official statement regarding production in North America…
Working with the UAW and listening to the concerns of our people, we have agreed to cease production at our plants across North America, starting progressively from today through the end of March. While production is paused, the Company will put actions into place to facilitate the steps agreed to through the joint task-force set up between the UAW and the automakers. Through this period, which we will re-evaluate at the end of this month, FCA will work to enhance its manufacturing operations to facilitate the changes agreed with the UAW including shift timings, structures and enhanced cleaning protocols.
Commenting on this action, 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.”
With our priority towards the health and safety of our workforce we are also evaluating the impact of all steps being taken inside the company related to the Coronavirus emergency on our current financial guidance. We will provide an update on our financial guidance when that evaluation is complete and we have sufficient visibility on market conditions.