Detroit’s automakers have been struggling over the past few weeks, as Ford, GM, and Stellantis have all closed production facilities across North America due to ongoing chip shortages. On top of the supply chain issue, Michigan itself has become the largest COVID-19 hotspot in the United States. Single-day case totals in the state are rivaling figures from the early days of the pandemic, wreaking havoc on the automaker’s workforces. According to a new report from Bloomberg, coronavirus cases are surging at Stellantis’ Sterling Heights Assembly Plant. This facility is home to the company’s high-profitable Ram 1500 pickup truck, and now it is facing possible closure due to the spread of the virus.
According to sources speaking with Bloomberg, Stellantis’ Sterling Heights Assembly Plant saw about 630 absences on the plant floor last Tuesday due to the virus. These workers had either tested positive for COVID-19, or were quarantined due to exposure per company protocol. That’s about 10 percent of SHAP’s production staff, and represents a rise of about 200 case-related absences compared to a week prior. Neither the UAW or Stellantis has shared an official figure related to the outbreak. As one might expect, these absences have led to a slowdown of Ram 1500 production at the plant.
According to the publication’s sources, the plant saw the daily build number of trucks drop by between 200 and 300 units last week. Such a COVID-19 surge couldn’t have happened at a worse time or place for Stellantis. The automaker is fresh off of the heels of closing 10 production facilities here in North America as a result of the global semiconductor chip shortage. In fact, the automaker made these closures with the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in mind. Because the Ram 1500 is the automaker’s most profitable offering, they intended to divert semiconductor chips to SHAP for use in building these Ram trucks. With numbers rising in Michigan, that plan may prove problematic in the coming weeks.
It was never a secret that companies with tons of in-person employees were going to struggle returning to normalcy amid the coronavirus pandemic. As Michigan tries to cope with the highest case rate in the nation right now, things are looking like they might get worse before they get better. Here’s to hoping that things don’t get too serious at Stellantis’ Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, and that we don’t see a repeat of what took place last March.