Detroit — French seating and interiors supplier Faurecia told employees this week that work will resume at a Michigan plant May 4, after earlier asking some employees to start work next week, while the state's stay-at-home order is still in effect.
As automakers make plans to ramp up amid COVID-19, many suppliers are caught between customer needs for parts to resume vehicle assembly and state orders limiting commercial activity to those necessary for sustaining and protecting life.
In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order that prohibits public gatherings, motor boating and in-state residence-to-residence travel is in effect until May 1. The Michigan Manufacturers Association has asked Whitmer to amend her stay-at-home order to allow automakers and suppliers to resume production, CEO John Walsh said Wednesday.
While the order makes exceptions for transportation-related work, it doesn't explicitly endorse automotive manufacturing, said Walsh. The organization has asked Whitmer to call it essential.
"We've been advocating that the governor modify her original executive order to … clarify the automotive industry as an essential industry," Walsh told Crain's Detroit Business, a sibling publication of Plastics News.
While some auto companies have slowly returned to work in other parts of the world, last week several automakers and suppliers began targeting the first and second weeks of May to restart vehicle production in the U.S. Walsh said manufacturers have notified suppliers "that it's time to get started."
Faurecia posted a memo for its Saline, Mich., employees on April 17 telling them to report to work on Monday, April 27, to restart production for Tesla. The injection molding plant in Saline, which last year employed 1,900 members of UAW Local 892, supplies interior parts to Tesla, Ford and Fiat Chrysler, the union said. Those parts include instrument panels and center consoles. The memo was widely distributed to employees on April 21 via text.
Faurecia also informed its employees in its April 17 memo, obtained by Automotive News, that the plant would restart on May 4 for Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
But on Wednesday, Faurecia backtracked on its Tesla production plans in another memo to employees, saying the target date is now May 4 and that "production will not start on 4/27 as previously indicated."