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FCA returning to work May 18 as UAW clears production restart

The US automaker could be the first of Detroit's Big Three to head back to work.

FCA Sterling Heights production plant
FCA is getting back to work.
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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will turn the lights back on and return to work on May 18, the automaker said on Tuesday during its first quarter investor call. FCA's plants across North America shut down on March 18 to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

The planned return-to-work date could make it the first US automaker to restart production in the country.

FCA plans to reopen most of its US and Canadian production plants on May 18, though its facility in Belvidere, Illinois, will remain closed until June 1. "FCA remains focused on implementing robust protocols that will make our employees feel confident that all precautions have been taken to ensure our facilities are safe, secure and disinfected when production resumes," a FCA spokesperson told Roadshow. Plants in Mexico will remain closed and the automaker said it would provide an update on its Mexico operations in the near future.

The automaker also underscored that it's developed its restart plan with guidance from the United Auto Workers union, Canadian union Unifor and local governments. Numerous states started lifting stay-at-home orders this week to allow for a phased approach to reopening state economies.

The UAW gave its blessing to FCA's reopening plan, and in a statement, President Rory Gamble said, "We continue to advocate for as much testing as possible at the current time and eventually full testing when available. As for the start date, the companies contractually make that decision and we all knew this day would come. Our UAW focus and role is and will continue to be, on health and safety protocols to protect our members."

Ford told Roadshow it still hasn't determined a timeframe to restart its production plants in North America, but it continues to assess the situation. General Motors did not immediately return a request for comment. Ford began sending employees back to work in Europe this week, and FCA has restarted some production in Europe as well.

Daimler's Mercedes-Benz division became the first carmaker to restart production in the US when it ramped up production slowly on April 27. Hyundai and Kia both restarted production in a limited fashion on Monday at their plants in Georgia and Alabama.

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First published May 5.