Ford, GM, FCA Slow Production

Automakers take varying paths to make fewer vehicles, protect workers


Body assembly of the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe within the new, 1-million-square-foot body shop at GM’s Arlington Assembly plant.

Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have all decided to suspend operations at plants in North America in their efforts to keep workers safe during the coronavirus epidemic.

On Sunday, March 15, the United Auto Workers, General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles had formed a Covid-19/Coronavirus Task Force to implement enhanced protections for manufacturing and warehouse employees at all three companies.

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On Wednesday, Ford said it was temporarily suspending production at its North America sites starting on Friday, March 20 and going through March 30. During this time, its plants would be thoroughly cleaned to protect its workers 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.

General Motors also announced that it would suspend manufacturing operations in North America that would last until at least March 30. After that time, it will reevaluate its schedule on a week-to-week basis. GM also will take this time to deep clean its facilities.

“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,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra.

GM is suspending production in a cadence, with each facility receiving specific instructions from manufacturing leadership.

Fiat Chrysler also said it had agreed to implement a series of shift pattern and production changes across its manufacturing plants in the United States.

Members of the task force formed by the companies and the UAW include UAW President Rory Gamble, GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra, Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford, Ford President and CEO Jim Hackett, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Michael Manley, UAW-GM Department Vice President Terry Dittes, UAW-Ford Department Vice President Gerald Kariem, UAW-FCA Department Vice President Cindy Estrada and the medical staffs and manufacturing and labor leadership teams at all three companies.

“Workplace health and safety is a priority for us every day, all three companies have been taking steps to keep the Covid-19/coronavirus out of their facilities and during this national emergency, we will do even more working together,” Gamble said when the task force was formed. “We are focused on doing the right thing for our people, their families, our communities and the country. All options related to protecting against exposure to the virus are on the table.”

The joint task force’s areas of focus are on vehicle production plans, additional social distancing, break and cleaning schedules, health and safety education, health screening, food service and any other areas that have the potential to improve protections for employees.

General Motors has plants in Spring Hill, Tennessee; Bowling Green, Kentucky and Arlington, Texas. The Spring Hill facility employs approximately 3,808 people making Cadillac XT5 and XT6, GMC Acadia and Holden Acadia, as well as engines. The Bowling Green plant makes corvettes and engines and employs approximately 1,445 people. The Arlington plant employs 4,976 people making GMC Yukons, Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoes, and Cadillac Escalades.

Ford has a truck plant in Louisville, Kentucky, that employs approximately 8,920 people, making its Ford F-250—F-550 Super Duty Trucks, Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator. In addition, Ford has an Assembly plant in Louisville that employs approximately 4,100 people making the Ford Escape and Lincoln Corsair.

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