Detroit's Big 3 Looking to Reopen Factories by May 18: Report

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【Summary】American automakers are holding talks with Michigan’s governor and leaders from the UAW to discuss a potential restart date for American facilities.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Jun 08, 2020 5:30 AM PT
Detroit's Big 3 Looking to Reopen Factories by May 18: Report

With factories being closed and new-car sales practically non-existent, automakers are itching to open facilities up to get production back to what it was before the coronavirus pandemic in the hopes of getting out of the red by the end of the year. With some states lifting stay-at-home orders and opening economies, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford, and General Motors are looking to restart production on May 18, claims a report from the Wall Street Journal.

Working Together For A Timeline

The outlet cites anonymous sources familiar with the plan as its source. Apparently, the sources claim that executives from all three brands spoke with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and UAW leaders to come up with a tentative date. The report comes at an interesting time, as a report from Automotive News that came out last week stated that the head of the UAW claimed that it was "too risky" to reopen automotive plants in May. The report indicates that the automakers could introduce safety protocols to ensure workers remain safe while they work.

The three automakers and the UAW have been looking at introducing safety protocols to implement during the coronavirus pandemic since March. Together, the Big Three and the UAW came formed the COVID-19/Coronavirus Task Force. The partnership was formed to "implement enhanced protections for manufacturing and warehouse employees at all three companies."

Some of the possible safety methods that automakers are looking into include temperature screens at the entrance of buildings, daily health questionnaires, having gloves and masks on hand for workers to utilize, and redesigning assembly lines to keep workers at least three feet apart from one another, claims an earlier report by Reuters.

We should note that May 18 is just a tentative date. With the coronavirus continuing to spread through the U.S., a vaccine currently not available, and mass testing still not being offered, this sounds like an incredibly hopeful date.

Should Automakers Open Plants?

American automakers have closed their factories for over a month now. GM closed its factories in a cadence starting on March 18 and didn't have an official restart date. FCA closed its facilities on the same day and originally had plans to open them back up on April 14, but that date was pushed back to May 4. Ford closed its slants on March 19 and stated that it wanted to open them on March 30.

According to data from the Centers of Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), opening plants isn't a wise idea at the moment. The CDC claims that coronavirus infection rates have not peaked yet. Opening facilities would put workers at risk.

There's also the question of who will buy the cars. Unemployment in America hit a total of 30 million people this week, so it's not like increasing production would draw consumers to dealerships. While some states have opened dealerships and have made sales and leasing departments "essential," some haven't. So, pumping out new cars in large numbers won't draw massive crowds to dealers. Still, these things probably won't stop automakers from opening factories soon. 

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