- shortly after automakers paused production in mid-march due to the covid-19 pandemic, they began looking for dates that they could restart.
- automakers are now restarting or will restart plants in the coming weeks.
- to keep workers safe and to prevent an outbreak of the virus among employees, the automakers have implemented protocols such as wearing masks, taking temperatures, social distancing, and deep cleaning of facilities.
in the time since automakers paused production in mid-march because of the coronavirus pandemic, proposed restart dates from eager companies have come and gone as it was deemed too dangerous to bring workers back to assembly lines. now, as worker safeguards have been vetted and the daily case numbers in many parts of the country appear to have peaked, production is resuming.
the challenges to restarting while preventing an outbreak among workers have proved to be formidable. ford and general motors have released 64- and 48-page guides to restarting, respectively, which detail the steps they’re taking to keep workers safe. volkswagen has a 100-point plan of its own.
factories, and the way that they operate, will look very different as employees return to their place on assembly lines. for many, workers will wear personal protective equipment including face masks, temperatures will be checked at the door, protocols to ensure social distancing have been implemented, and those are just a few of the measures being taken.
for the detroit three, setting a date to restart production meant meeting the united auto workers' (uaw) expectations for worker safety. for others such as volkswagen and toyota, that meant restarting at a time when suppliers had returned to work and were prepared to replenish the supply chain necessary to assemble cars.
across the country, stay-at-home orders have been relaxed, allowing manufacturers to return to work; most crucially that has been done in michigan where many suppliers have plants.
here is a list of the automakers with plants in the u.s. and their plans to restart production.
bmw operates one plant in the u.s., in spartanburg, south carolina. that plant, which builds suvs including the x5 and x6, returned to production on may 4.
before michigan gov. gretchen whitmer announced that manufacturing could resume on may 11—prior to the end of the stay-at-home order—ford had resisted announcing a restart date. that said, now that it can resume vehicle production, ford will begin restarting most of its factories across the country on may 18, with its flat rock (michigan) and oakville (ontario) plants to open on may 25.
gm had planned to begin its restart at assembly plants on may 18, and the order allowing manufacturing to resume in michigan paved the way for that date to be solidified. gm had production resume at three of its factories on may 11 and will have others restart through may 26.
hyundai and corporate sibling kia restarted their alabama and georgia plants, respectively, on may 4. hyundai builds the elantra, santa fe, and sonata in alabama, and kia assembles the optima, sorento and telluride in georgia.
mercedes-benz was one of the first automakers to resume production in the u.s., bringing its alabama plant back online on april 27. the automaker’s plant in south carolina restarted production on may 4.
nissan operates two plants in the u.s., in mississippi and tennessee, and has not yet set a restart date for those plants.
subaru restarted production at its only plant in the u.s. on may 11, located in indiana, where the ascent, impreza, legacy, and outback are built.
tesla and the state of california have gone back and forth regarding whether the automaker can resume work at its fremont plant. ceo elon musk openly stated (on twitter) that he had restarted production on monday, may 11, in defiance of a local order, and volunteered to be arrested. the situation is currently under negotiation.
toyota had planned to reopen u.s. plants the week of may 4 but delayed the restart a week because of issues with its supplier network. the automaker will resume production across the country the week of may 11.
volkswagen had planned on resuming production at its plant in tennessee on may 3 but has delayed the restart indefinitely as it evaluates supplier readiness.
volvo restarted production at its south carolina plant where it builds the s60 on may 11.