The COVID-19 outbreak in Michigan is starting to affect car production, and a large Ram Truck plant has reduced production due to the large numbers of absentee workers.
A person familiar with the situation said Friday that about 10% of workers at the Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) assembly plant in Sterling Heights, North Detroit, have either tested positive for the virus or are under quarantine. The person, who requested anonymity, said that this equates to about 600 workers, because neither the company nor the United Auto Workers Union provide details.
The plant covers an area of 400,000 square meters (5 million square feet) and employs around 7,450 hourly contract workers, but not all of them are on assembly lines. In an effort to stem the shortage, the company has turned to workers at a truck plant in nearby Warren, Michigan, which has been forced to shut down due to the global semiconductor shortage.
But given the need to train these workers to build the new Ram trucks, the assembly line is moving more slowly than usual, said the person, who said he did not know how much production was lost.
For weeks, Michigan state has recorded the nation’s highest weekly average of coronavirus cases, at 538 cases per 100,000 residents, according to federal government data.
The UAW confirmed that cases are on the rise in Sterling Heights. The union said that many of the absent workers did not show their infection, but were waiting for tests or self-isolating because of their contact with other people with the virus.
“Although the numbers are shifting by shift, we can say that there has been a recent increase in cases, as is the case across Michigan,” Stelantis Vice President Cindy Estrada said in a statement.
He urged workers to exercise caution in order to “keep factories, UAW members and their families safe.”
Stellantis also did not want to give numbers, but confirmed that he had employees who had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The company said in a statement that it was taking steps to keep factory workers safe and urged them to get vaccinated.
“We remain firm in following the recommended guidelines for contact tracing,” the statement said. “We also continue to strongly encourage our employees to follow the same health and safety procedures when they are away from their homes.”
The Ram truck, the third most popular vehicle in America, is a major source of income for Stellants. The company sold 563,000 of these trucks and trucks last year.
Stellantis’ competitors, Ford and General Motors, said they have not lost production in recent weeks due to COVID-19.
A production slowdown in Sterling Heights was first reported on Friday by Bloomberg News.