The move comes after pressure from the UAW for a two-week closure.
Update: Added FCA's statement at the end of the article.
With Coronavirus continuing to spread across North America, Detroit automakers Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are temporarily shutting down all assembly plants across North America. Ford, GM, and FCA have released statements confirming operations will be closed at least through March 30. Conditions for reopening will be determined after that on a weekly basis.
In a statement released from Ford, the automaker says it will halt production at plants in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico beginning at the end of evening shifts on Thursday. The facilities will remain closed through March 30, during which time a thorough cleaning of the facilities will occur.
Here is Ford's complete statement:
DEARBORN, Mich., March 18, 2020 – Following Thursday evening shifts, Ford is temporarily suspending production at its manufacturing sites in North America through March 30 to thoroughly clean its facilities to protect its workforce and boost containment efforts for the COVID-19 coronavirus.
“We’re continuing to work closely with union leaders, especially the United Auto Workers, to find ways to help keep our workforce healthy and safe – even as we look at solutions for continuing to provide the vehicles customers really want and need,” said Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s president of North America. “In these unprecedented times, we’re exploring unique and creative solutions to support our workforce, customers, dealers, suppliers and communities.”
UAW and Ford leaders will work together in the coming weeks on plant restart plans as well as exploring additional protocols and procedures for helping prevent the spread of the virus. Chief among them: finding ways to maximize social distancing among plant workers – both during work hours and at shift change, when large numbers of people typically gather at entry and exit points and maximizing cleaning times between shift changes.
“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,” said Rory Gamble, president of the UAW. “We have time to review best practices when the plants reopen, and we prevent the possible spread of this pandemic. We commend Ford for working with us and taking this bold step.”
Ford temporarily closed Michigan Assembly Plant (MAP) final assembly building this morning after an employee tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus and is thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting the building, as promised as part of the company’s coronavirus emergency response protocol. MAP will halt production through March 30.
In addition, the company will instruct people who have had direct contact with that infected employee to self-quarantine and get medical attention. Those who have had close contact to those who have had direct contact are asked watch for symptoms and seek medical attention if they feel unwell.
The move to temporarily close plants follows Sunday’s news that Ford leaders are forming a Coronavirus Task Force along with UAW, General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler leaders to implement enhanced protections for manufacturing and warehouse employees at all three companies. Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford and President and CEO Jim Hackett, UAW President Rory Gamble, GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra, and FCA CEO Michael Manley are leading the task force. The three companies formed a similar task force in Canada.
“Together, we’ll continue finding solutions and best practices that help keep workers at our plants and parts distribution centers healthy and safe throughout our operations,” said Gary Johnson, chief manufacturing and labor affairs officer.
In addition, Ford vehicle manufacturing sites in Cologne and Saarlouis in Germany, together with the Craiova facility in Romania, will temporarily halt production starting Thursday. Ford’s Valencia assembly and engine facility in Spain already temporarily halted production from Monday, after three workers were confirmed with coronavirus over the past weekend.
“Especially in these challenging times, we must continue working together and putting people first,” Galhotra said.
GM released a similar statement for its North American operations, though the automaker said the closure will last until at least March 30. Its shut down procedure will vary depending on the facility in what GM describes as "a systematic orderly suspension of manufacturing operations."
Here is GM's complete statement:
DETROIT – Today, General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) confirmed it will begin a systematic orderly suspension of manufacturing operations in North America due to market conditions and to deep clean facilities and continue to protect people. The suspension 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,” said GM Chairman and CEO 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. I appreciate the teamwork of UAW President Rory Gamble, UAW Vice President Terry Dittes and local leadership as we take this unprecedented step.”
“UAW members, their families and our communities will benefit from today’s announcement with the certainty that we are doing all that we can to protect our health and safety during this pandemic,” said UAW President Rory Gamble. “This will give us time to review best practices and to prevent the spread of this disease. We appreciate General Motors' actions today and will continue to work with them on health and safety plans to be implemented when we resume production.”
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.
FCA's statement came several hours after statements from Ford and GM, but it essentially says the same thing. Operations at FCA facilities will progressively shut down and remain closed through the end of March.
Here is FCA's complete statement:
March 18, 2020 , Auburn Hills, Mich. - 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.
None of the automaker statements address how idled workers will be compensated during the closure. A report from the Associated Press says 150,000 workers will be affected.