Honda expects coronavirus sales slowdown, idles North American plants

Employees will continue to be paid

Honda on Wednesday announced plans for a six-day production suspension at all of its vehicle assembly and components plants in North America, reducing output by around 40,000 vehicles as it anticipates a slowdown in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The temporary closure starts Monday, March 23 at all five of Honda’s U.S. vehicle assembly plants, its Ohio transmission and engine plants, and its components plant in Georgia, plus five plants in Mexico and Canada. Honda’s current plan is to resume production at all North American plants on March 31.

The move affects roughy 27,600 employees across four states and three countries, who will continue to receive full pay. Honda said it would use the down time to give its production facilities and common areas a deep cleaning to protect workers when they return. “Maintaining a clean and safe work environment is an ongoing priority at Honda, but in light of the current environment, we have instituted more frequent sanitization efforts at all of our facilities,” the automaker said in a statement.

Those include instituting screening measures at all of its U.S. facilities in Ohio, Indiana, Alabama and Georgia for all visitors, and enforcing “social distancing” practices through practices including staggered lunchtimes and allowing employees to work from home whenever possible. It also offers temporary paid personal leaves of absence for employees who contract the virus or whose families members fall ill. The company said all of its U.S. facilities remain open and knows of no employees who have been infected with coronavirus. 

Honda has already suspended production in the Philippines, where it operates a vehicle-assembly plant that employs 650 workers. In its announcement Wednesday, Honda said it was carefully monitoring conditions with an eye on aligning production with demand. Its announcement comes as the Detroit Three automakers and the United Auto Workers union agreed to slow down production and stagger shifts, among other measures, to protect factory workers. It also follows an order directing Tesla to temporarily shut down its Fremont, California plant, where it is ramping up production of the new Model Y crossover, amid a three-week shelter-in-place order in the Bay Area.

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