The Detroit Big Three Automakers - General Motors Company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ford Motor Company - all restarted production on May 18, after almost two months of a coronavirus-inspired shutdown. Honda Motor, Toyota Corp. and Tesla reopened their plants last week while Hyundai Motor restarted production at their facility in Alabama even earlier.
Plants across the South and the Midwest of the US were reopened, with new health and safety measures in place to limit the exposure of workers to the coronavirus. Assembly line workers were wearing PPE and standing far apart, facilities were being disinfected regularly. Prior to the reopening, workstations were modified where needed to space them wider apart from each other.
The return to production is expected to be gradual, as auto plants and parts manufacturers start making and shipping products. The reopening has been eagerly anticipated by the industry, which has lost billions of dollars in sales during the past month or so. According to Automotive News, US automakers produced just 4,840 vehicles in North America in April, as compared to 1.4 million in the same month last year. Sales of new vehicles fell by around 50% in April.
How smoothly and swiftly automakers can resume production will also depend to some extent on the lifting of restrictions on movement in not just the US but also in Canada and more importantly, Mexico, since the supply chains of all three trading partners in North America are closely interconnected.