China’s Carmakers Ease Social Distancing Rules
Physical distancing rules are disappearing in China’s auto plants.
Body temperature checks and face masks are still the norm. So is regular plantwide disinfection. But Reuters says its visits to six car and components factories found many employees, especially in final assembly areas, working nearly shoulder to shoulder.
Workers at Daimler’s car plant in Beijing. (Image: Reuters)
Reuters visited plants operated across China by Daimler, Geely, Renesas Electronics, Ningbo Joyson Electronics, production equipment supplier SMC and Tesla.
China’s social distancing norm has been one meter, about half the six feet advocated in the U.S. Reuters says the same rule continues to apply among Chinese manufacturers outside production areas where closer working conditions are necessary for the sake of productivity.
China says reports of new COVID-19 infections have dropped to single digits per day.
All plants visited by Reuters claim they haven’t detected a new infection since February. That’s when the country began reopening some of its car plants. Geely Auto Group tells Reuters its factory in Yuyao returned to its full operating capacity in early March.
Last month, overall vehicle production in China rose 2% above output in April 2019, marking the first year-on-year gain since COVID-19 appeared in the country at the end of December. Factory wholesales to dealers grew 4%, ending a slide that began in June 2018, according to the China Assn. of Automobile Manufacturers.
China’s auto industry was first to be affected by the coronavirus epidemic and first to emerge from it. So carmakers in Europe and the U.S. have been closely tracking progress there, including the experiences of their own factories in China, for clues about what to expect as they open their home plants.
So far, the indicators are encouraging. If what has happened in China can be duplicated in the U.S., then the American auto industry could return to near-normal output by mid-August.
Although “Detroit” is synonymous with “automotive production,” the only major OEM that actually manufactures vehicles within the city limits is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, as it runs the Jefferson North Assembly plant in Detroit, where the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Dodge Durango are built.
In order to keep the Classic of interest, Ram Truck has gone back to 1976, the year they launched the Dodge Warlock, a “factory-personalized” pickup, and have created the 2019 Ram 1500 Classic Warlock.
General Motors Co. says it hopes to claim equipment and inventory from a bankrupt interior trim supplier to avoid being forced to idle all 19 of its U.S. assembly plants.