US Automaker Targets May 4th Production Restart

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FCA has given up on trying to restart North American production in mid-April.

It could be less than a month before production restarts for at least one of the major US automakers.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has targeted a date of May 4th to fire the factories back up after shutting down North American production operations over concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus. Previously, FCA had targeted a restart date of April 13th, but that was before the Trump administration announced its decision to extend current social-distancing guidelines to at least the end of April.

FCA's new May 4th target date applies only to its factories in the US and Canada; production will restart in Mexico at a later date.

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Things will look a bit different after production comes back online in May, as FCA and other automakers are studying how best to minimize the risk of contributing to COVID-19's continuing spread at their facilities. This could mean introducing new screening and sterilizing practices at each of FCA's facilities, and even further separating workstations to keep workers more spread out.

"During this current production pause, we are working with government officials and our unions to implement new procedures to certify the daily wellness of our workforce while also redesigning work stations to maintain proper social distancing and expanding the already extensive cleaning protocols at all locations," the automaker said in a statement. "As a result of these actions, we will only restart operations with safe, secure and sanitized workplaces to protect all of our employees."

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US sales of FCA vehicles plunged 10.4 percent year-over-year in the first quarter as the automaker's strong showing in January and February was more than undone by the coronavirus outbreak and its impact on the US economy. The Chrysler Pacifica was one exception to the rule, posting a 5-percent increase in sales for the quarter, while pickups like the Ram 1500 and Jeep Gladiator also enjoyed defiantly strong sales.

Yet as much as we're looking forward to US auto production restarting, we wonder what sort of a market the country will emerge into. FCA's competitors also suffered losses in Q1, with GM sales sliding 7.1 percent in the US to Ford's 12.5-percent slip.

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