Over the past couple of weeks, Michigan has seen a major increase in positive COVID-19 cases across the state. But now it seems that the virus may affect the production of several Stellantis vehicles manufactured in the state, as positive cases at assembly plants rise.
According to the Automotive News, around 630 workers from the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant (SHAP) have tested positive for COVID-19 or are currently in quarantine. Those numbers are by some 200 workers over the past week. SHAP is currently the only plant manufacturing the 2021 Ram 1500, the best-selling vehicle in the Stellantis North America portfolio. With over 8,700 workers working three shifts at the SHAP facility, the positive cases are affecting SHAP’s daily production build numbers by 200 to 300 vehicles this week the Automotive News says.
The SHAP plant isn’t the only plant affected in the area. Other reports have indicated that the Jefferson North Assembly Plant (JNAP) which currently builds the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee (WK2) and the 2021 Dodge Durango and the Sterling Stamping plant have also had large numbers of positive test results from within their facilities. The JNAP workers in the plant’s trim department reportedly staged a protest on Friday during the day shift, which caused production to come to halt after a worker was sent home after testing positive with the virus. The stop in production caused the entire first shift to be sent home early.
The United Auto Workers (UAW), General Motors Co., Ford Motor Company, and Stellantis (then Fiat Chrysler Automobiles or FCA) announced in late March of 2020, that they were forming a COVID-19 Task Force to implement enhanced protections for manufacturing and warehouse employees at all three companies. It was in June of last year, that FCA returned to work at its North American plants using increased safety protocols that include thermal scanners, extended cleaning periods, putting up dividers, as well as spreading out its work staff wherever it was possible.
Some workers are calling for a four-week shutdown to allow the plants to be thoroughly sterlized. Those who have asked for a shutdown are asking the company for enough time to allow those who currently have or have been exposed to the virus to have time to be able to return to work in good health.
“While the numbers change by shift, we can say that there is a recent increase in cases, as there is throughout Michigan,” said UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada in a statement to the Detroit Free Press. “Based on our daily calls with the company we know many of the absences are not positive cases, but rather absences due to close contact quarantine, waiting on test results or other COVID-related absences to be as cautious as possible and keep the plants and our UAW members and families safe.”
Stellantis was the hardest hit of the “Big-3” automakers when it came to deaths related to COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic last year.
The news comes as the auto industry continues to face challenges in production surrounding the ongoing semiconductor chip shortage.