Update 3/18/2020: Like Ford, General Motors announced it would also close its U.S. plants through March 30.
While European automakers have closed their plants in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the Big Three U.S. manufacturers planned to keep their plants open. Now, upon meeting with the United Auto Workers union, Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler have agreed to temporarily close their plants, a source told Automotive News Wednesday. Ford and GM said they would close all its North American manufacturing sites through at least March 30 after Thursday’s evening shifts come to a close.
“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 Ford’s North American president Kumar Galhotra. “In these unprecented times, we’re exploring unique and creative solutions to support our workforce, customers, dealers, suppliers and communities.” When the work stoppage ends, the company said it would also work with the UAW on a plan to reboot production in April.
At the moment, it’s not immediately clear how long Fiat Chrysler plans to shut down for. However, as employees test positive for COVID-19 across all of the Big Three, hopefully the decision will help prevent further spread of the virus.
Sources told the Detroit Free Press that FCA’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit stopped production for about an hour and a half Wednesday morning. One worker said, “Everybody is on the floor, standing around. Some are yelling at each other. Everybody is afraid. ‘Why are we here,’ they’re asking. Everybody is kind of freaking out.” A worker was supposedly sick on the line which caused the stoppage, while the UAW worked with human resources to convince the automakers to shut down the plants.
FCA also released a statement saying it plans to suspend production through the end of March.