The surge in COVID-19 cases in Michigan has driven up the rate of absenteeism at a key Stellantis truck plant while the impact from the catastrophic winter weather in Texas also is creating problems for the auto company.
Facebook posts over the weekend indicated that as many as 700 employees at Stellantis’ Sterling Heights Assembly plant, where the Ram 1500 is built, have called in sick because of exposure to COVID-19 slowing production inside the plant. Stellantis acknowledged the company is seeing an increase in cases among employees.
“We continue to be aggressive in following recommended guidelines for contact tracing,” the company said in a statement. “We also continue to strongly encourage our employees to follow the same health and safety measures whenever they are out and about.”
Employees in auto plants are eligible for vaccination under Centers for Disease Control guidelines, which deemed their jobs as essential. However, while urging all employees to get vaccinated, UAW President Rory Gamble said he does not favor making vaccinations mandatory.
Stellantis production hit
Like General Motors and Ford, Stellantis has been forced to curb temporarily production at several North American plants including the Warrant Truck plant, just north of Detroit, which is scheduled to remain shut through May.
In addition, the Belvidere Assembly plant in Illinois where the Jeep Cherokee is made and in Ontario both Brampton Assembly, where the company builds its muscle cars, and the Windsor Assembly plant where the Stellantis builds the Chrysler Pacifica are down temporarily until the end of April. The company’s assembly plant in Toluca, Mexico that builds the Jeep Compass is also temporarily idled.
In court papers filed as part of a lawsuit in federal court in Detroit, Stellantis also could be forced to shutter production at the Jefferson North plant in Detroit where it builds the highly profitable Jeep Grand Cherokee also could threatened by the shortage of semiconductors.
Court fight about semiconductors
However, a federal judge declined to grant an injunction that would have compelled a Dutch company to furnish semiconductors to a supplier that builds HVAC controls for Stellantis.
The supplier, JVIS-USA, asked for an injunction that would have forced NXP to provide more chips to its operations. Without the chips the Jefferson North plant is in danger of an “imminent shutdown.”
However, NXP showed it does not have any semiconductors because its partner plant in Texas was shut following a severe winter storm in Texas that battered the state’s electric grid.
Until now most of the coverage on the semiconductor’s shortage revolved around the shortage of chips made in Taiwan but the lawsuit makes clear that the problems in Texas have exacerbated the problem.