The world’s biggest automaker, Volkswagen Group, reopened one of its largest factories in Germany just over a week ago. It implemented strict hygiene measures and changes to the production line to allow for social distancing.
It was a landmark move, signaling a return to semi-normality for the German auto industry. The company then announced that it was in the early stages of reopening its American factory operations.
U.S. automakers, not wanting to be left behind as the global economy slowly reopens, are now planning their own reopening strategies. Both Ford (NYSE: F) and GM (NYSE: GM) have announced plans to restart production in North America.
Major Changes for American Producers
American companies are taking no chances with the ongoing pandemic.
According to announcements from Ford and GM, production facilities will be thoroughly sterilized regularly, and more time will be allocated between shifts to ensure that work areas are clean.
Some employees will need testing before they return to work. Those who have been exposed to someone with the Coronavirus will receive tests before being allowed on the factory floor. Workers will also have their temperatures recorded daily. If they exhibit signs of fever, they will be tested.
When possible, workers will be required to remain at least six feet apart. Workstations will have clear plastic panels installed to ensure that social distancing takes place. All workers will be provided with face masks and plastic face shields if they need to work within close proximity of each other.
These methods have been effective in other nations. GM, which operates a factory in Korea, is already using similar methods there. Ford is doing the same in its Thailand factory.
Executives are confident that enhanced social distancing and hygiene measures will be effective. Ford’s Chief Operating Officer said this week that he would “feel comfortable sending my family to work at Ford.”
When Will Factories Reopen?
GM and Ford have been producing essential ventilators, face masks, and personal protective equipment during the Coronavirus pandemic. Deciding to restart auto production is a major step.
GM is aiming to turn production lines on in the second half of May, while Ford has stated that it is closely monitoring conditions and will announce its reopening when appropriate.
Seeing America’s largest automakers reopen will be reassuring for consumers and workers in the industry. Investors should watch GM and Ford stocks closely in the coming weeks.
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