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Ford, GM, Fiat Chrysler join Honda in closing US factories to slow pandemic

Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler are joining Honda in closing down all of their US factories, sending about 150,000 workers home in an effort to help fight the spread of the novel coronavirus. Most other automakers are temporarily shutting down US operations as well.

Ford and General Motors said in press releases that they will close all of their North American manufacturing facilities starting either today or March 19th until at least March 30th. Ford had already closed one plant in Michigan after an employee tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Further details about the shutdowns are expected to be released sometime on Wednesday afternoon. The news was first reported by The Associated Press and The Detroit News.

Earlier on Wednesday, Honda became the first automaker to kick off an extended shutdown of its US manufacturing operations in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The company announced on Wednesday morning that it’s closing all of its automotive production plants in North America for six days due to an “anticipated” drop in demand.

Fiat Chrysler had previously indefinitely closed one of its factories where the Ram 1500 is made after a worker tested positive for COVID-19. Hyundai is also closing down its factory in Alabama indefinitely after confirming a case of COVID-19 there.

Nissan is closing its two US factories from March 20th until at least April 6th, and Subaru is closing its Indiana assembly plant from March 23rd to March 29th. Volkswagen is also shutting down its Chattanooga, Tennessee factory from March 21st until at least March 29th, with full pay for employees. Toyota is closing its factories for two days.

Honda says it will pay all 27,000 workers across the closed facilities during the shutdown. The six-day shutdown will drop the company’s North American vehicle output by about 40,000 vehicles. (The company made nearly 2 million vehicles in North America in 2019.)

Automakers in the US have faced increased pressure over the last few days to shut down their factories as the country comes to grips with the pandemic and after the federal, state, and local governments started recommending people stay in their homes as much as possible.

The United Auto Workers even advocated for a two-week shutdown of Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler factories, though the companies and the union ultimately agreed on Tuesday evening to scale back and space out shifts at those automakers’ plants. But the UAW reportedly continued to push for full shutdowns after that agreement was reached.

Tesla is also still running its Fremont, California, automotive plant, despite a shelter-in-place order from counties in the San Francisco Bay Area. Many of these automakers have already closed their factories across Europe in response to the pandemic.

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