Big 3 automakers agree to close plants in response to coronavirus pandemic

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DETROIT (AP) – Detroit's Big Three automakers agreed to shut down their factories to protect workers in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Previously, The Associated Press reported that two people briefed on the matter said that Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler agreed to close all their factories. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because the closings had not been announced at that time. The move would idle about 150,000 workers, who are likely to receive supplemental pay in addition to unemployment benefits.

Later in the day, Ford and General Motors announced temporary shutdowns. Ford halted production at all U.S., Canadian and Mexican plants beginning after Thursday night shifts, with the closure expected to last through March 30. GM said it would close all North American manufacturing plants through March 30 as well.

Fiat Chrysler is expected to make a similar announcement.

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The United Auto Workers union had been pushing for the closures to protect workers and prevent the spread of COVID-19. In the last day, both Fiat Chrysler and Ford said they had employees who tested positive for coronavirus. At least one worker at the Chrysler plant in Kokomo tested positive, according to state health officials.

Honda Motor Co. announced Wednesday that it will temporarily close its North American factories for about one week starting on Monday.

Automakers have resisted closing factories largely because they book revenue when vehicles are shipped from factories to dealerships. So without production, revenue dries up. Each company has other reasons to stay open as well. Ford, for instance, is building up F-150 pickup inventory because its plants will have to go out of service later this year to be retooled for an all-new model.

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