'New Normal' Takes Hold at U.S. Auto Plants

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
8216 new normal takes hold at u s auto plants

At this point, only Ford has yet to deliver a firm restart date for its U.S. assembly plants, with Detroit rivals Fiat Chrysler and General Motors pegging May 18th for a cautious ramp-up of manufacturing activities.

Elsewhere, things are getting back to normal — or as close to normal as one is allowed these days. Amid new health protocol and a weak supply chain, Hyundai and Kia flipped on the switch this week, joining a handful of other foreign brands that have already restarted production in the U.S. South.

May 4th was the return date for the conjoined Korean automakers, and return they did. Both Hyundai, at its Montgomery, Alabama plant and Kia, at its West Point, Georgia facility are running on one shift, citing parts procurement as an issue. The plants went offline on March 18th and 30th, respectively.

New safety measures for workers “include pre-screening for temperature; physical distancing guidelines in workstations and break areas; staggered shifts; expanding existing cleaning protocols and health and safety communication materials,” Hyundai said in a statement.

As reported by Automotive News, the automaker stated that “due to the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our supply chain, KMMG will limit production operations to one shift.” This will impact production of the Sonata, Elantra, and Santa Fe, as well as the Sorento, Telluride, and Optima. Hyundai’s popular new Palisade hails from the brand’s homeland, where supply chain constraints continue to dog production.

Both Hyundai and Kia fared better than others when it came to April sales in the U.S., though neither brand can boast of stellar results.

Elsewhere in the South, Mercedes-Benz restarted production in Alabama on April 27th, with BMW firing up its South Carolina plant on May 4th, operating at half speed.

Also in South Carolina, Volvo is waiting until May 11th to rekindle the car-building fire. Volkswagen says it will remain offline in Tennessee until further notice, citing supply problems. Mexico — a very important country for VW — isn’t expected to get its act together until June 1st. Tesla has told its California assembly plant workers they will remain furloughed for at least the current week.

Nissan, an automaker no other company wishes to be, has said its U.S. plants will remain shuttered until at least mid-May. Subaru’s Indiana assembly plant will stay darkened for the present week.

[Image: Hyundai]

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4 of 8 comments
  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on May 07, 2020

    Previous terminology of "supply chain" will now be changed to "supply thread."

  • Redapple Redapple on May 07, 2020

    I gotta say it. Can Steph stop the cutesy, 12 year old boy sayings. Its not cool. Its not stylish or hip. Its painful. When I start an article, I dont look at the author's name. A couple paragraphs in I spot it. Cutesy crap. Steph wrote this. I m done. "where supply chain constraints continue to dog production" "Volvo is waiting until May 11th to rekindle the car-building fire."

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