Enlarge /. A General Motors assembly line in Flint, Michigan, in 2019.
The country's "Big Three" automakers (General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler) are reported to close their factories for at least two weeks. The Associated Press first brought the news, which was confirmed by the Wall Street Journal.
The United Auto Workers union has been pushing for closings for days. The union has argued that continuing to manufacture cars during a pandemic is threatening the lives of US auto workers. But on Tuesday evening, automakers and the UAW had worked out a plan to make car manufacturing safer by limiting hours and physically distributing workers.
Union hands may have been strengthened by news that two auto workers – one with Fiat Chrysler and the other with Ford – had tested positive for corona virus.
A major problem is that the new corona virus can spread asymptomatically. So if a person in a particular factory tests positive for coronavirus, there is a risk that other employees may have recognized the virus but have not yet shown any symptoms.
Tesla: "contradictory leadership"
In the meantime, Tesla appears to be defying officials in Alameda County, California – the location of its only North American factory in Fremont – who have instructed Tesla to cease operations. theinformationsuperhighway reports that an email from the company's Human Resources department on Wednesday instructed employees to come to work.
"We don't have a final word from the city, county, state, and federal government about the status of our operations," the email said. "We had conflicting policies from different levels of government."
In an email released by Eletrek on Tuesday, Tesla's human resources manager argued that Tesla did not need to be shut down because the company is considered a national critical infrastructure as defined by the Ministry of Internal Security. The category "includes auto manufacturing and energy infrastructure," said Tesla.
"People need access to transportation and energy, and we are critical to providing it," the email said.
Tesla apparently believes that its interpretation of these DHS guidelines replaces Alameda County's instructions on closure. It remains to be seen whether Alameda County officials will agree.
Wall Street has hammered US automaker stocks. As of this writing, Ford's stock has dropped 16 percent versus Tuesday's close. GM has dropped 23 percent. And Tesla's shares fell 16 percent. All of these losses are significantly greater than today's 8 percent decline in the broader stock market.