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UPDATE: Detroit Automakers Agree to Temporary Shutdowns of Plants

March 18, 2020
The carmakers were under significant pressure from the UAW, which initially demanded they close their plants for two weeks.

Update: General Motors Co. and Ford Motors have announced they will shut down U.S. production through March 30 as they clean and sanitize their factories. Honda Motor Co. has also agreed to close its doors for six days.

General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will partially shut down their U.S. plants on a rotating basis in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The measures announced by the United Auto Workers Tuesday followed meetings the union held to protect their members from Covid-19, which was officially deemed a pandemic last week. The UAW said earlier the companies had resisted a request the union made on Sunday to idle their U.S. operations for two weeks.

Car manufacturing has virtually ground to a halt in Europe this week after the coronavirus earlier disrupted output in countries including China, South Korea and Japan. Shutdowns by the likes of Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG and Renault SA span the continent, with several companies choosing to idle production until further notice rather than publicly announce plans for when assembly lines will roll again.

But interruptions at U.S. auto factories have been limited thus far, with Ford announcing March 17 that a parts shortage would temporarily idle its Explorer sport utility vehicle plant in Chicago. Fiat Chrysler confirmed a second case of a worker testing positive for the virus -- the latest being at a Ram pickup plant in Michigan -- after disclosing one last week at a transmission plant in Indiana that kept operating.

UAW President Rory Gamble told members earlier March 17 that the union gave the three Detroit carmakers a 48-hour deadline to develop plans to safeguard workers.

“These companies will be put on notice that the UAW will use any and all measures to protect our brothers and sisters who are working in their facilities,” Gamble said before the meeting. “And make no mistake, we have powerful allies who have stepped up to help us.”

He said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell were “instrumental” in bringing Detroit automakers to the table Sunday to form a task force with CEOs of GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler. The group vowed to enhance worker protections by more strictly screening factory visitors and cleaning common areas more regularly.

By Gabrielle Coppola, David Welch and Keith Naughton

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