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Path for Metro Detroit automotive industry to reopen becoming more clear

General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler prepare to restart idled operations

DETROIT – The path for the Metro Detroit automotive industry to reopen is becoming more clear, as General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler prepare to restart their idled operations.

Officials from General Motors said Wednesday that the company intends to reopen plants later this month, and the same goes for Fiat Chrysler.

GM did something in the first quarter that FCA and Ford couldn’t: make money. It wasn’t much by industry standards, but big truck sales made it possible.

Now, everyone wants to know when they can expect to be back on the job, if they aren’t already.

“We are targeting to restart the majority of our manufacturing operations in the U.S. and Canada the week of May 18 under extensive safety measures,” a General Motors spokesperson said.

Local 4 got a firsthand look about a week and a half ago inside the Warren Transmission Plant. There, UAW and company volunteers have been churning out face masks for hospitals all over the state.

READ: Fiat Chrysler CEO expects all plants in North American to reopen within 3 weeks

Employees wear face masks, and sometimes face shields. Line workers won’t be in white suits, but they will work staggered shifts and have social distancing measures enforced. There will also be frequent disinfecting at each work station, officials said.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra said what the company has learned in the process is paying off.

“Where our coronavirus safety protocols have been in place we have not seen a confirmed case of community spread in our facilities,” Barra said.

The industry is already warning that the second quarter will likely come with more heavy losses, and that has Rep. Debbie Dingell’s attention.

Dingell said American manufacturing, led by the auto industry, might need more government help to ensure job security going forward.

MORE: Michigan legislators sue Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for extending state of emergency

“Washington has a tendency to forget the Midwest and manufacturing period,” Dingell said. “I don’t know anybody who is asking for a handout. I think that people are concerned the liquidity of the car community is clearly an issue.”

Dingell and others are circulating a letter in Washington saying they expect the downturn to exceed the last one, and they want the government to be ready to keep the companies going, should they need help.


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