The continued spread of the coronavirus throughout the United States has already had a number of repercussions in the business world. The last few days have seen an official entry into a bear market, the postponement of professional and college sports seasons, and businesses asking their employees to work remotely. With the number of cases spreading rapidly, the General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles have all made announcements pertaining to employees working offsite.
An announcement came from Ford yesterday in which the company requested that all non business-critical employees begin working from home in an attempt to limit coronavirus’ impact on the workforce. Moreover, it noted that next week’s Ford Bronco launch events would be cancelled, as is the Bronco Sport’s debut thanks to the New York Auto Show’s postponement. Thursday also saw FCA’s Windsor Assembly Plant come to a halt as employees refused to return to work after word came that one worker was being self-quarantined due to possible exposure to the virus, according to a report by The Detroit News.
An employee at FCA’s Kokomo Transmission Plant in Indiana became the first person employed by one of Detroit’s three automakers to officially contract the coronavirus in the United States earlier this week. Despite that development, the company has stated that production at the facility was slated to continue as normal. Last night however, CEO Mike Manley sent an email to employees stating that the company was looking into methods of limiting transmission inside their facilities, as well as setting up the ability to work from home for a number of employees.
GM CEO Mary Barra put out a statement to employees today that said employees whose jobs allow for it will be able to work from home during this difficult time. There are no plans to stall any of the company’s production facilities in the United States at this time, however Ford CEO Jim Hackett has said the Blue Oval will close specific locations where exposure to the virus has been confirmed for at least 24 hours for a disinfection process.
The main goal for the automakers is to ensure that their plants don’t go offline, however they are trying to make necessary adjustments to ensure the safety of their hourly employees. As the coronavirus situation continues to unfold, expect more changes to come to the automotive industry moving forward. Currently, no production is being suspended, but Monday starts another week, and what’s likely to be another storm of announcements in this rapidly developing situation.
Even as OEMs are taking precautions, they can do very little to control the hysteria that the combined pandemic and stock market crash has incurred on the American public. When it comes to foot traffic at the showroom, dealerships are already reporting a steep drop in both customer visits and scheduled services, reports Reuters. And if the Chinese market is any indicator, total industry sales could drop around 80 percent.
Good luck, everybody.