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As the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the world, automakers are taking extreme measures in the form of plant closures to halt the spread of COVID-19, the disease the coronavirus causes. The situation remains fluid as more European companies suspend work and US automakers extend shutdown periods.
Here are all the automakers and companies that have elected to halt production in the US and Europe so far. Information on Detroit’s Big Three begins our coverage, followed by all other shutdowns organized by the date automakers announced them. We’ve also compiled a full list of automakers returning to work with plants restarted in some capacity.
Ford shut down all European and North American production on March 19 to help combat the spread of COVID-19. While Ford intended to reopen facilities and restart production on March 30, the company on March 31 delayed that goal indefinitely. However, it plans to start ventilator production at one of its US facilities on April 20. Production of Ford vehicles and engines across the pond is expected to resume on May 4 at the soonest.
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GM joined Ford on March 18 in announcing a total suspension of all North American production starting March 19. The automaker said it would pull its facilities offline in a “cadence” and each plant would receive specific instructions. GM hasn’t made any announcements regarding when its plants will resume normal production, but it is building ventilators and masks at two US GM facilities. The automaker made the decision to build personal protective equipment on its own before the Trump administration forced it to do so by invoking the Defense Production Act.
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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
FCA joined Ford and GM on March 18 in announcing it would suspend all North American operations to help stop the spread of COVID-19. While GM and Ford haven’t established new dates to restart production, FCA told Roadshow on April 7 it now plans to bring workers back on May 4. An FCA spokesperson originally told Roadshow the automaker’s Italian plants could open on April 14, but as of April 15, the company said it will continue to follow guidelines from the Italian government. The country will remain in a lockdown state until May 3, which leaves a production start at least a few weeks away. The automaker will evaluate other European plants in the coming weeks.
Kia on March 24 said it would suspend production at its manufacturing plant in Georgia starting March 30. The shutdown will last two weeks, and includes a previously planned suspension to retool for new vehicles. The automaker originally planned to restart production on April 13, but named April 27 as the new target date. Kia did not immediately return a request for comment to learn if manufacturing operations has restarted.
Linda Hasenfratz, chief executive of auto-parts giant Linamar Corp., a company from Guelph, Ont., known the world over for building engine parts and transmissions, is now suddenly and deeply immersed in the challenge of producing hospital ventilators.
It’s not a particular business line she had envisioned for her firm even a month ago. “We had identified medical devices broadly as a market that we are interested in and are looking to expand into at some point … we’re exploring the field but ventilators were not on the list.”
Amid the novel coronavirus crisis, Ms. Hasenfratz and her company are engaged in what amounts to an unprecedented project. They are teaming up with other auto-parts makers to help a small Brampton, Ont.-based firm, O-Two Medical Technologies, produce 10,000 ventilators in a matter of months for the Ontario government.
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The Linamar CEO says, in some ways, an engine and a ventilator are not that different. “Both are complex assemblies full of very critical, precisely manufactured parts that need to be assembled in a certain way – and then the full assembly needs to be tested.”
O-Two is in charge but Linamar is spearheading the work by Magna International Inc., Martinrea International Inc. and ABC Technologies Inc., which have volunteered to bring their expertise to bear in this rapid escalation of production.
Plans are still being hammered out, but Ms. Hasenfratz said the auto-parts makers’ contributions will include parts. “We are tooling up a whole bunch of machined parts, like 40 different parts, that we can manufacture for them.”
Auto-parts makers say their industry is very good at expanding production quickly, manufacturing extremely precise items, dealing with suppliers to expedite the shipping of raw materials and components as well as eliminating or reducing bottlenecks on the production line. Plus, these firms have the financial resources on hand to quickly procure items.
“We’re used to highly precise manufacturing with very tight [measurement ] tolerances … and very high standards in terms of cleanliness,” Ms. Hasenfratz says.
She said parts makers could also take charge of subassembly – putting together components that will then form part of the ventilators – to make it easier for O-Two to focus on final assembly and testing.
Flavio Volpe, president of the Auto Parts Manufacturers Association, which played a crucial role in bringing together the assistance for O-Two, said one option would be akin to sharing assembly of a Lego kit with a 30-page instruction manual. “It might be the best way to get to 10,000 ventilators is five pages belong to Linamar, you get your current medical suppliers to do five pages, you get Magna to do five pages and then Martinrea to do five pages. By