Better Days Ahead: Subaru Eyes U.S. Production Restart

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Known for having one of the leanest inventories in the industry, Subaru has marked yet another date date on its calendar, no doubt hoping that once production resumes in Indiana, it won’t have to turn out the lights again.

The Japanese manufacturer initially shut down its Lafayette assembly plant for the period of one week back in late March. We now know how optimistic that was. May 11th is the new return date.

As auto plants fell like dominoes last month, Subaru of Indiana Automotive announced a one-week suspension lasting from March 23rd to March 29th — during which the Indiana plant’s roughly 5,300 workers would receive full pay and benefits.

That came to pass, but the end of the week saw nothing good on the coronavirus front. Not for anyone. Subaru pushed the return date to April 6th, then moved the target further away, to April 20th. Before Tuesday’s announcement of a May 11th return, the automaker declared it would furlough its hourly workforce for the current week.

“The situation was no longer sustainable while production remains suspended amid health concerns, declining market demand and supply chain issues,” a Subaru spokesperson told Automotive News last week.

Subaru’s Indiana plant builds the Impreza, Legacy, Outback, and all-important Ascent three-row crossover.

Elsewhere in the industry, May 4th looks like a popular date for plant reopenings, though time will tell whether those restarts come to pass. Ford and General motors are taking a wait-and-see approach, preferring to list no hard date for a return to work. Fiat Chrysler simply says its U.S. assembly sites will come back online “sometime” after May 3rd.

[Image: Subaru]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Apr 15, 2020

    The big question is can they build cars with parts suppliers still shut down. If they're a lean, just-in-time operation, they're not staring up until their suppliers in China, South Korea, and elsewhere are up and running. There may be a chicken/egg situation: can the assembly lines start up before the parts arrive from suppliers, or will the suppliers wait to restart until there are open assembly factories to ship to?

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Apr 15, 2020

    Good points. Without enough parts vehicles cannot be built and without open plants parts will not be made.