This story has been updated to reflect Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ announcement on its plant closings.
Toyota will resume production at “all of its automobile and components plants in North America, including Canada, Mexico and the U.S.” on April 20, the automaker told TheDetroitBureau.com in an e-mailed statement.
The Japanese carmaker, like virtually all major auto assemblers, put production on hold last week due to the worsening coronavirus pandemic. Production cuts also took into account the massive buildup of dealer inventory due to the virtual collapse of U.S. car sales, demand expected to drop at least 50% next month, according to J.D. Power.
Toyota’s announcement follows word that Ford Motor Co. plans to begin restarting its own North American manufacturing network starting on April 6. Fiat Chrysler has now weighed in saying it will extend its North American plant shutdown until April 14, though a statement from FCA did not offer specific details on the start-up of its plants after that date.
As did Ford, Toyota left open the possibility that it could yet rethink its production plans due to the fluid nature of a pandemic that has resulted in the effective lockdown of tens of millions of Americans across the U.S. Toyota operates factories in several states where at least some restrictions have been put in place.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and take appropriate action in a timely manner,” the Japanese automaker said in its statement.
Toyota has expanded its manufacturing base in North America substantially throughout the past three decades, with another plant under construction in Alabama as part of a joint venture with Mazda. The automaker claims more than two-thirds of the vehicles it sells in the U.S. are assembled at those various plants, including high-demand models like the RAV4 utility vehicle and Camry sedan.
The company has 32,000 workers in its North American manufacturing operations. It’s total North American workforce is 47,000. Whether the resumption of production will result in full-speed operations at all of the Toyota plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico was left unsaid.
For its part, Ford on Thursday morning announced that it will start back up on April 6 with a single shift at one factory, the Hermosillo Assembly Plant in Mexico. The second-largest of the Detroit automakers will then bring back online four more assembly plants on April 14, along with a number of stamping, powertrain and other support operations.
The news that the auto industry is slowly getting ready to fire back up follows President Donald Trump’s push to get the U.S. economy back into gear – though neither Ford nor Toyota will have U.S. plants in operation by the deadline the president had set this week, Easter, or April 12.
And there are clearly challenges to be addressed, starting with the fact that the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has not yet peaked. If anything, infections – as well as fatalities – have escalated rapidly this week.
Brian Rothenberg, a spokesman for the United Auto Workers union responded to Ford’s announcement by saying the union views the plan “with great concern and caution.”
For his part, Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s president of North America, said in a statement that the automaker “will continue to assess public health conditions, as well as supplier readiness and will adjust plans, if necessary.”
As for other automakers, “The situation is fluid and can change week to week,” GM said in a statement. “We don’t have firm return to work dates at this time.”
FCA said in an e-mail Thursday afternoon that its own North American operations “are intended to remain closed until April 14, dependent upon the various state stay in place orders and the readiness of each facility to return to production.” The automaker did not outline specific steps it would take to bring employees back to work, however, particularly at its various parts and assembly plants.