With new storms again threatening Texas and other parts of the country, the auto industry continues to reel from the adverse winter weather that limits production.
Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Nissan and Volkswagen all reported shutting down some of their assembly lines.
Automakers already struggled with closures due to the semiconductor shortage — and still are — so the two bouts of extreme winter weather only adds to the misery. Some companies closed, reopened and are now closing some production lines again.
GM hit hard
GM’s assembly plant in Arlington, Texas, which builds full-size SUVs, including the Cadillac Escalade and generates more $1 billion in annual profits, remained shuttered due to the harsh weather. In addition, problems with the supply of natural gas in Mexico, where it is used to generate electricity, closed GM’s pickup truck plant in Silao.
The company also reported its assembly plants in Spring Hill, Tennessee and Bowling Green, Kentucky cancelled their first-shift production and Spring Hill also cut the second shift.
Ford keeps plants closed
“The unseasonably cold weather throughout much of North America continues to affect operations at some of our plants in the region,” Ford said in a statement, which it was hoping to resume production at its critical Kentucky Truck plant in Louisville, Kentucky.
Ford plants in Flat Rock, Michigan and Kansas City, Missouri remain closed and the Dearborn Truck plant just outside of Detroit was operating on a reduced schedule. A Ford assembly plant in Hermosillo, Mexico also was closed due to a shortage of natural gas.
At Toyota, the truck assembly plant in San Antonio, Texas is shut as are plants in Alabama and Mississippi. The company slowed production at two plants in Mexico as well.
“The vast majority of our Plano, headquarters team has already been working remotely due to COVID, but the campus has been closed due to weather as well,” according to Kelly Stefanich, corporate communications group manager.
Meanwhile, Nissan suspended operations at its assembly plants in Smyrna, Tennessee and Canton, Mississippi, but the company’s engine plant in Decherd, Tennessee resumed production, Nissan officials said. Officials said it halted some production at its facility in Aguascalientes, Mexico.
Reuters reported Volkswagen and Audi also temporarily shut down operations in Mexico due to the natural gas shortage.
New problems in Mexico
The problems also have spread into the Maquiladora belt, which runs parallel to the United States border with Mexico in Texas where many supplier plants are also having to close as Mexican authorities shift scare supplies of natural gas to hospitals and other critical institutions.
The potential shortages of components come on top the shortages of semi-conductors that have slowed production at auto plants around the world.
Sagging infrastructure to blame
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch of the Alliance for American Manufacturing said the problems this winter reflect the long-term neglect infrastructure across the U.S.
“It’s hard to understate how bad America’s infrastructure has gotten. The national electric grid, for example, gets a D+ grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers. But the rest of our infrastructure is also in terrible shape, from bridges and roads to water systems and pipelines to schools, ports, railways, airports and more,” she noted.