GM has announced it's extending its North American factory shutdown as COVID-19 continues to spread.
General Motors is reneging on a previous statement that suggested the US-based auto giant could resume regular domestic vehicle production after March 30, committing to extend its temporary shutdown with no clear end-date in sight as the novel coronavirus continues to spread.
"Today, we are extending [US plant] suspension and will continue to evaluate our operating plans going forward," said GM Vice President of North America Manufacturing and Labor Relations Phil Kienle in a communication to manufacturing employees.
One small exception is GM's Arlington Assembly Plant in Texas. GM told workers there it is seeking volunteer senior full-time employees to take on paid shifts from March 30.
In a statement to The Detroit News, GM said that the work is only expected to last a week or less, "to finish the build out of current models is only at Arlington Assembly," before those volunteer employees return to layoff status to ride out the COVID-19 storm.
GM temporarily shuttered North American factories beginning in the middle of March partly in response to mounting pressure from the United Auto Workers union, which had grown increasingly concerned that there were not enough safeguards in place to protect workers and employees from the virus. GM's US-based rivals Ford and Fiat Chrysler suspended North American production at the same time.
But where Ford and FCA have - perhaps optimistically - suggested that regular production could restart as early as April 14, the UAW met that news with "great concern and caution." GM, meanwhile, seems less willing to put an exact date on it, as the COVID-19 crisis seems to be just getting started.
GM's Arlington Assembly Plant has been selected to once again produce GM's next-generation full-size, body-on-frame SUVs: the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban; the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL; and the Cadillac Escalade and Escalade ESV. Those redesigned models were unveiled earlier in the year, and as high-margin utility vehicles that tend to command elevated transaction prices, they're crucial to GM's sales strategy for the coming years.