Economy Health

Automakers across the Ohio Valley are temporarily closing their plants in response to the coronavirus pandemic. That includes the big three U.S. automakers — Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler — and Toyota.  

 In a release, GM said it will be suspending manufacturing in North America due to market conditions and to deep clean facilities. The closures are expected to last until about the end of the month. From there production will be re-evaluated on a week-to-week basis.

United Auto Workers President Rory Gamble agreed with the GM decision, saying in the statement that the suspension of work will help protect the health and safety of the union’s members. “This will give us time to review best practices and to prevent the spread of this disease,” Gamble said.

Ford, which operates six manufacturing facilities in the Ohio Valley, is also suspending operation until about the end of the month. 

Todd Dunn, president of UAW Local 862 in Kentucky, said Ford is working on a long-term plan for workers to practice social distancing and keep workers safe.  

Kentucky is home to GM’s Corvette plant in Bowling Green, which employs about 1,400 people, and a Ford facility in Louisville which employs about 4,000 people assembling the Ford Escape and Lincoln Corsair. Dunn said he supports the decision to temporarily shut down. 

“They’re going to come in and try to clean as much as possible, deep clean areas,” he said. “Hard part is you can’t get everything.”  

Toyota said in a statement that it will temporarily suspend production at all of its plants in North America until April 17. 

Toyota’s facility in Georgetown, Kentucky, is Toyota’s largest vehicle manufacturing plant in the world, and employs more than 8,000 people. The company also has a facility in Putnam County, West Virginia, which employs about 550 people. The manufacturing facility in Georgetown, Kentucky will also cancel Saturday production. 

The temporary suspension of production will likely have significant ripple effects well beyond those directly employed, as dozens of regional companies supply parts and services for the automakers.  

This post has been updated to show Toyota is extending its suspension of production again. 

Based at WKYU in Bowling Green, KY, Becca Schimmel covers economy and infrastructure.