COVID-19 Continues to Affect and the Auto Industry

The coronavirus has taken an unprecedented toll on the auto industry. When the virus hit the United States, auto producers were forced to close production centers. After months of minimal production and sales rates, auto producers reopened plants, primarily with a limited number of workers and with safety guidelines including a mask mandate. Concerns are now increasing as many workers are refusing to show up to work due to fears of contracting the virus in close quarters with other workers.

In states where coronavirus cases are climbing, such as Michigan and Missouri, many employees are missing work, causing companies like Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler to hire temporary workers. General Motors has chosen to reconstruct shifts to aid in solving the issue. The lack of employees showing up to work is due to not only workers staying home who have the virus, but also the vast number of those who fear to return to work. Further, any employee who has been exposed to someone with the virus must stay home for the typical 14-day quarantine period. Industry leaders fear another shutdown and the potentially immobilizing economic outcome of such an occurrence. For this reason, many U.S. based automakers aim to keep their plants running while addressing safety concerns from workers.

Ford and Fiat Chrysler declared the hiring of temporary workers to account for sick and quarantining staff unable to work. Temporary workers are not strangers to the auto industry, as the hiring of fill-ins is common practice for employees out on vacations or leaves of comparable length. Ford has hired more than 1,000 temporary workers to keep its Kentucky plant up and running. Kentucky recently reported its highest number of cases per day. Though temporary hires are on the incline for the auto producer, it could very well be the company’s savior during current uncertainty.

General Motors produces the Chevrolet and GMC midsize pickup in Missouri, but the state’s positivity rate is only increasing. GM has worked hard to rearrange its schedules for staff members to accommodate for people who are out sick or quarantining. Therefore, the company is up to cut number three as they plan to eliminate another shift, which would result in assigning workers to alternate locations. GM urges workers to follow safety protocols, at home and work, seven days a week. The automaker aims to guarantee jobs to its workers. Prioritizing the safety of workers may lower the overall productivity rate, but GM wants its workers to feel safe coming into work each day. Tesla argues that safety protocols at work are prioritizing the health of workers, but they cannot track and mandate employee actions beyond work hours.

If the biggest auto producers in the country decided to shut down factories, primarily located in Michigan, the auto industry would be threatened as a whole. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently remarked that the shutdown of plants would be necessary if residents don’t obey a required mask order. The state’s cases per day have shown an increase.