Ford, FCA issue restart dates for some US plants

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The headquarters of auto maker Chrysler Group in Auburn Hills, Mich. on August 16, 2014.

The headquarters of auto maker Chrysler Group in Auburn Hills, Mich. on August 16, 2014. (Kristoffer Tripplaar/Sipa USA/TNS)

Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Honda and Toyota took steps Thursday to restart North American factories that have been closed to protect workers from the coronavirus.

The plants would reopen in early or mid-April, restoring the largest source of cash for automakers that generally book revenue when they ship vehicles to dealerships.

Ford is aiming to restart production at select plants in North America as early as April 6, the automaker said Thursday. In a statement, Ford said it plans to bring its key plants back up and put more safety measures in place to protect returning workers.

“We will continue to assess public health conditions as well as supplier readiness and will adjust plans if necessary,” Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s president of North America, said in a statement.

Across town, Ford’s rival GM said its restart plans remain undetermined.

But Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which has seen at least three several workers die in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, said Thursday it plans to restart production April 14.

Honda wants to reopen U.S. and Canadian factories on April 7, a week later than originally planned, while Toyota plans to restart North American plants on April 20.

The UAW reacted to Ford’s news by issuing a statement: “We are reviewing with great concern and caution today’s announcement. Our priority is the health and safety of our members, their families and the American public.”

The union later issued a second statement saying any decisions to restart production should be informed by data and where each state is on the contagion curve.

The UAW wants companies to follow the Centers for Disease Control guidelines at all worksites and before reopening facilities, make sure protections are in place to ensure the safety of workers and the public.

“The only guideline in a boardroom should be management asking themselves, ‘Would I send my family – my own son or daughter – into that plant and be 100% certain they are safe?’ ” said UAW President Rory Gamble.

Ford plans to resume production at It’s Hermosillo Assembly Plant on April 6 with one shift, Galhotra said.

On April 14, Ford plans to start building vehicles at:

_Dearborn (Mich.) Truck Plant

_Kentucky Truck Plant

_Kansas City Assembly Plant’s Transit line

_Ohio Assembly Plant

Galhorta said Ford also intends to start production at these supporting plants on April 14:

_Dearborn Stamping Plant

_Dearborn Diversified Manufacturing Plant

_Integrated stamping plants within Kansas City and Kentucky Truck plants

_Sharonville (Ohio) Transmission Plant

_Portions of Van Dyke (Mich.) Transmission, Lima (Ohio) Engine and Rawsonville (Mich.) Components plants

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer put in place an order Monday mandating most people stay at home through April 13. With that in mind and other considerations, GM is still evaluating the timeline to restart production.

“The situation is fluid and can change week to week,” said Jim Cain, GM spokesman. “We don’t have firm return-to-work dates at this time.”

Earlier this week, a UAW local’s memo to workers at GM’s Bowling Green assembly plant in Kentucky said the restart date there was April 14. GM builds the Chevrolet Corvette and the engines for Corvette there.

Cain cautions that that date is not firm, saying, “In certain states, when you fill out paperwork for temporary unemployment, some states require you to put a restart date on the form” as procedure.

The restart dates are important to the auto supplier companies.

Many suppliers have shut down many of their plants and temporarily laid off workers or are running on paid-volunteer, small staffs, in reaction to their customers – the Detroit Three – shutting down the assembly lines.

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