While Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) was hoping to restart some of its North American operations in the United States and Canada on May 4th, it looks like the company will be pushing back its hopes for restarting operations by two weeks. FCA was planning on slowly restarting production at a handful of its facilities on a one-shift basis, however, push back from the United Auto Workers (UAW) union and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, may be the deciding factory to delay restarting operations.
Last week, Democrat Gov. Whitmer extended her executive ordering keeping the state’s nonessential businesses closed through May 15th, as Michigan was one of the highest-ranked states with COVID-19 (or Coronavirus) active cases. UAW President Rory L. Gamble stated after Whitmer’s decision to extend her executive orders stated that “I feel the scientific data is not conclusive at this point and it is too risky for our members, their families, and our communities to support a quick return to work in early May.” The decision has caused many automotive suppliers to be vocal about the shutdown and its effects on their business.
In a statement released on Monday, FCA spokeswoman Jodi Tinson stated “It is important that our employees feel confident that all precautions have been taken to ensure our facilities are safe, secure and sanitized when production resumes. In light of the updated state stay in place orders, the company is re-evaluating its plans to resume its North American operations and will communicate new restart dates in due course.”
FCA resumed its commercial van plant on Monday in central Italy, using similar protocols that were in place to restart operations across the United States and Canada. The plant’s restart comes a week before Italy’s plans to start lifting its national lockdown amid the COVID-19 crisis. “As a global FCA family, we are sharing best practices that have enabled the restart of operations at our plants in China and this week, with the support of the unions, at our Italian plants,” Tinson said.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Ford Motor Company and General Motors (GM) have recalled a skeleton crew of salaried and skilled trades workers, on a volunteer basis, to help get some of their facilities to get ready to return to production. Sources state that both Ford and GM are eyeing the May 18th date with FCA, to slowly start-up production as some of both company’s key plants.
However, on Monday, Gov. Whitmer said asking the Michigan legislature to extend her orders another 28 days. It is unknown if this will affect at May 18th start-up date, as the governor’s office has not made a firm decision on restarts. Talks between Whitmer’s office, the automakers, and the UAW are ongoing, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Tiffany Brown, a spokeswoman for Gov. Whitmer stated, “The governor and her team have been talking regularly with many people affected by this crisis, including business leaders. She’ll closely monitor the spread of the disease and public health indicators while continuing her plan to incrementally return Michigan back to work.”
FCA is scheduled to release an update of their projections for restarting its North American operation, within the next week.