Tuesday, 21 July 2020 22:30

Plants Running, But Automakers Face COVID-19 Fallout

Written by Joseph Szczesny, Wards Auto


The COVID-19 pandemic continues to hobble automakers as they scramble to find workers, parts and buyers amid continuing concerns about public health.

“The surge in COVID-19 cases across the country is negatively impacting consumers and dealers,” Cox Automotive analysts said in a new report.


“Almost half of the shoppers delaying their purchase described this as a ‘scary’ time to buy a vehicle. For those delaying service, almost half say it is because they are just not driving as much as they used to,” Cox said. “Anxiety is ratcheting up again for consumers and dealers.”


Meanwhile, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and Ford all report absenteeism is running higher, prompting the companies to search for laid-off employees who can be hired temporarily to fill in for workers missing due to the virus.


UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said when car plants reopened in May after a two-month shutdown triggered by the rapid spread of COVID-19, the automakers agreed to relax their penalties for absenteeism. “You don’t want people coming to work if they’re sick,” he said.


The higher-than-normal absenteeism does not mean more union members are sick, Rothenberg added. But the pandemic has created other problems that have led workers to not show up for their regular shifts, he said.


In some cases, employees have self-quarantined because they might have met someone with COVID-19 outside the plant. In other cases, they cannot find child care or are a caregiver to an elderly parent or other relative, who are at greater risk from the virus.


GM temporarily cut the third shift employing 1,250 workers at an assembly plant in Wentzville, MO, in response to concerns about COVID-19. Cases in Missouri have increased in recent weeks.


“We believe, in the short term, a two-shift operating plan will allow us to operate as efficiently as possible and accommodate team members who are not reporting to work due to concerns about COVID-19 in the community,” GM spokesman David Barnas said in an email.


“People on our team should not be concerned about coming to work. GM Wentzville is following multilayered safety protocols that are working very well to keep people safe by reducing the possibility that COVID-19 can enter the plant and preventing any spread within the plant,” Barnas said.

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