THE brakes have been slammed on the US motor industry after its largest manufacturers bowed to pressure and agreed to shut down their operations.
Detroit’s ‘Big Three’ — Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler — will begin the shutdown from today.
Their 150,000 workers will be sent home on reduced pay and told to claim benefits to make up the difference.
All three firms have had employees test positive for Covid-19.
Nissan is also temporarily pulling the plug on its US factories from today, while Honda and Toyota will follow suit next week.
The measures come after the United Auto Workers union pushed for its members to be taken off the production line over fears working in close proximity to each other would allow the virus to spread quickly.
‘We have been taking extraordinary precautions around the world to keep our plant environments safe, and recent developments in North America make it clear this is the right thing to do now,’ General Motors chief executive Mary Barra said in a statement.
Before the closures were announced, Fiat Chrysler had sent workers home from a factory in Sterling Heights, north of Detroit, after they became concerned about the pandemic.
The company said a plant employee had tested positive for the coronavirus but had not been to work for more than a week.
Ford said it shut an assembly plant in the Detroit suburb of Wayne on Wednesday after a worker there tested positive. The company said it is thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting the building. Production will be halted until March 30, it added, saying it will work with union leaders in the coming weeks on plans to reopen factories.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump declared yesterday that the government should take an equity stake in some companies that need bail-outs.
The US president told reporters at a briefing he has executive authority to curb the devastating economic impact of Covid-19, which he calls the ‘Chinese Virus’.
‘There’s a lot of executive power,’ he said, but added: ‘If we don’t have to use it, that would be a good thing, not a bad thing.’ Mr Trump said he would back imposing conditions on firms receiving help, such as putting limits on executive bonuses.
He is seeking $3billion from Congress to top up the country’s strategic petroleum reserves, potentially propping up US oil producers.