Detroit Automakers Reinstate Mask Mandates in Michigan

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

General Motors, Stellantis, and Ford Motor Co. collectively decided to reinstate masking mandates in Michigan over the weekend — stating that the impacted factories were in areas with high levels of COVID-19.

The automakers had lifted mask requirements for employees after the backlash against government-backed restrictions and mandates hit a fever pitch in March. While protests had begun swelling by the fall of last year, the Canadian Freedom Convoy that was forcibility disbanded in February drew national attention to the issue. Despite Detroit manufacturers suggesting they would walk back restrictions (if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was okay) for months, ditching masks initially involved a series of stipulations about vaccinations and job titles. It wasn’t until public outrage spilled over into the real world that sweeping changes began to occur.

To be fair, infections had also declined between January and March of 2021. But previous dips in infection rate had gone largely ignored in terms of adjusting protocols and the uptick we’ve seen in May has been relatively modest thus far. Recent hospitalization rates have also stayed low with admissions to the intensive care unit (ICU) being the lowest since the pandemic officially began early in 2020. This is according to the CDC’s own data as of May 16th, 2022.

However, Detroit’s trio has maintained that they’ll do basically whatever the CDC tells them and the national health agency recently listed six of the most populous counties in the State of Michigan as having higher than average infection rates and has recommended wearing masks indoors and in public settings.

According to Reuters, the relevant facilities will require all persons (regardless of their vaccination status) to be masked upon entering. On Sunday, the United Auto Workers (UAW) stated that if any facility under its control “is located in high-risk counties as identified by the CDC, they will require masking and physical distancing.”

From Reuters:

Ford said it was temporarily reinstating a face mask requirement at all of its plants located in areas deemed high-risk by the CDC.

Stellantis said that starting on Monday, “company-issued face masks will again be required for employees, contractors and visitors at all Stellantis facilities” in those Michigan counties. The company added, “it is expected that the requirement will be in place for the next two weeks.”

GM said it “will be implementing COVID protection measures at our facilities in Oakland, Wayne, Livingston and Macomb counties given the CDC has now listed them as high risk.”

One wonders how this will play out in the coming weeks. The tolerance for lockdown measures doesn’t seem to have improved and we’ve seen how stringent health protocols can absolutely obliterate productivity. China is presently instituting some of the most aggressive COVID-19 restrictions on the planet and has been attributed as one of the leading causes of shortages that are only anticipated to worsen through the summer. Granted, masking is not the same as forcibly keeping people locked indoors and/or sleeping on factory floors.

But there’s a very real possibility that the resulting backlash to mandates could result in a lapse in productivity stateside. Output has remained strained worldwide since 2020, leading one to assume that enhanced health and safety measures could be counterproductive in terms of industrial fruitfulness. This is especially true if they end up encouraging protests or (less likely due to the UAW position in Michigan) a worker’s strike. Automakers are likely weighing that against an assumed number of employees that might be out sick if masking were not reinstated and upsetting the federal government.

The industry has suggested the returning mandates should only last about two weeks, which is roughly how long the CDC said national health restrictions would be in place during the onset of the pandemic.

[Image: Miljan Zivkovic/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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19 of 135 comments
  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on May 16, 2022

    Just here for when the usual $#!+heads start gleefully celebrating unvaccinated folks dying again.

    • See 9 previous
    • Jeff S Jeff S on May 17, 2022

      @Art--And may I add I would not celebrate you or anyone getting Covid-19 even if you refused a vaccine but I would say you made the choice and you have to accept the consequences which is far from being a leftist viewpoint. If a child or someone for some other reason could not get a vaccine that is a different story but if you can get a vaccine and you have the choice then you need to be responsible for any consequences. That is not dancing on anyone's grave or wishing the harm it is just being realistic.

  • Teddyc73 Teddyc73 on May 17, 2022

    Thee comments are proof...this country is extremely divided and totally incapable of coming together. The hatred, misinformation, garbage, intolerance and total ignorance is so deep, so ingrained, and entrenched there is simply no way we will ever be one nation under God. So sad.

    • See 6 previous
    • FreedMike FreedMike on May 17, 2022

      @MB: "I’m not suggesting it’s stupid to say we want competition for energy; the point is, if such alternative energy sources were practical and cost effective, they would already exist." By this logic, circa 1975, using another product: "I’m not suggesting it’s stupid to say we want competition for typewriters; the point is, if such alternatives to typewriters were practical and cost effective, they would already exist." If your attitude had held sway in, say, 1980, the machine that you used to call me a "ranting ignoramus" would have never existed. Technology evolves. It's evolving right now. Why am I a "ranting ignoramus" for wanting more evolution?

  • Dartdude Having the queen of nothing as the head of Dodge is a recipe for disaster. She hasn't done anything with Chrysler for 4 years, May as well fold up Chrysler and Dodge.
  • Pau65792686 I think there is a need for more sedans. Some people would rather drive a car over SUV’s or CUV’s. If Honda and Toyota can do it why not American brands. We need more affordable sedans.
  • Tassos Obsolete relic is NOT a used car.It might have attracted some buyers in ITS DAY, 1985, 40 years ago, but NOT today, unless you are a damned fool.
  • Stan Reither Jr. Part throttle efficiency was mentioned earlier in a postThis type of reciprocating engine opens the door to achieve(slightly) variable stroke which would provide variable mechanical compression ratio adjustments for high vacuum (light load) or boost(power) conditions IMO
  • Joe65688619 Keep in mind some of these suppliers are not just supplying parts, but assembled components (easy example is transmissions). But there are far more, and the more they are electronically connected and integrated with rest of the platform the more complex to design, engineer, and manufacture. Most contract manufacturers don't make a lot of money in the design and engineering space because their customers to that. Commodity components can be sourced anywhere, but there are only a handful of contract manufacturers (usually diversified companies that build all kinds of stuff for other brands) can engineer and build the more complex components, especially with electronics. Every single new car I've purchased in the last few years has had some sort of electronic component issue: Infinti (battery drain caused by software bug and poorly grounded wires), Acura (radio hiss, pops, burps, dash and infotainment screens occasionally throw errors and the ignition must be killed to reboot them, voice nav, whether using the car's system or CarPlay can't seem to make up its mind as to which speakers to use and how loud, even using the same app on the same trip - I almost jumped in my seat once), GMC drivetrain EMF causing a whine in the speakers that even when "off" that phased with engine RPM), Nissan (didn't have issues until 120K miles, but occassionally blew fuses for interior components - likely not a manufacturing defect other than a short developed somewhere, but on a high-mileage car that was mechanically sound was too expensive to fix (a lot of trial and error and tracing connections = labor costs). What I suspect will happen is that only the largest commodity suppliers that can really leverage their supply chain will remain, and for the more complex components (think bumper assemblies or the electronics for them supporting all kinds of sensors) will likley consolidate to a handful of manufacturers who may eventually specialize in what they produce. This is part of the reason why seemingly minor crashes cost so much - an auto brand does nst have the parts on hand to replace an integrated sensor , nor the expertice as they never built them, but bought them). And their suppliers, in attempt to cut costs, build them in way that is cheap to manufacture (not necessarily poorly bulit) but difficult to replace without swapping entire assemblies or units).I've love to see an article on repair costs and how those are impacting insurance rates. You almost need gap insurance now because of how quickly cars depreciate yet remain expensive to fix (orders more to originally build, in some cases). No way I would buy a CyberTruck - don't want one, but if I did, this would stop me. And it's not just EVs.