Rising COVID Cases Threaten Auto Industry Rebound

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With many states entering re-opening phases following COVID lockdowns, the auto industry was beginning to get back on track. Most major manufacturers were on a path to resume normal, pre-COVID shift levels and begin producing new cars at a steady rate. However, this new rebound may be in jeopardy as it seems like a second wave is on the horizon.

Many of the manufacturers are noticing a rise in employees missing work due to COVID-19 symptoms, or because they were exposed to those who have tested positive for the disease. The minimum amount of time one is supposed to self-quarantine is 14 days. This has led to issues with their new production plans, especially in states such as Michigan, Kentucky, and Missouri where COVID cases have been surging.

As a result of the growing absences, General Motors has also begun to restructure shifts at one of their assembly plants in Missouri. St. Charles County, which is where the plant is located, is currently fifth in the state in terms of the number of reported cases. The company plans to cut the third shift and furlough some employees while shifting others to the remaining two shifts.

Meanwhile, Ford and Fiat Chrysler have both begun to hire temporary workers to cover for sick or quarantined employees. Usually, temp employees are brought in to fill in for vacations, or when a ramp-up in production is needed for a new product launch. In Kentucky alone, Ford has already hired over 1,000 new temp workers.

The biggest concern across the industry is if another total shutdown of production will occur. If Michigan, in particular, were to shut things down again, it could have a ripple effect that’ll force other plants in other states to shut down as well. Last week, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer threatened to shut down auto plants if they did not follow the state’s mandatory mask order.