Auto Plant Shutdown Spares an Essential: Corvette Parts

As union officials expressed concern about the safety of the factory, three large US automakers announced in March that they would cease their North American operations, sending nearly 150,000 workers home.

But with the epidemic outbreak, a handful of General Motors employees have included more than a dozen at many Bedford, Ind. Plant in It makes the chassis for the Chevrolet Corvette, which G.M. K is one of the most iconic and expensive vehicles.

A gm The spokesman confirmed the workers’ accounts, stating that the factory’s continued operations were intended to reduce chassis shortages and help the company resume production of Corvette after the reopening of an assembly plant in Bowling Green, Ky. do.

The spokesman said that the Bedford plant was running three shifts a day – with about 20 people per shift, normally from about 250 hourly workers – and that the employees, at their normal pay, volunteered for assignments. did.

company Said on wednesday It planned to “resume the majority of manufacturing operations” in North America on 18 May.

Exceptions to widespread shutdowns sometimes shed light on the questionable debate over which economic activities should continue during the coronovirus epidemic, and how much discretion employers must have when making such decisions.

Amazon employees have questioned whether the company should be shipping toys and such items Headphones. (Amazon has reduced demand for less essential items by displaying longer delivery times for them.) Workers at craft stores like Hobby Lobby Is disputed Are they necessary, as in some manufacturing plants, such as Candy factories. And employees from a variety of businesses, from hair salons to dental offices, have voiced concern over states’ decision to lift stay-at-home orders.

Nevertheless, some employers have asked rank-and-file workers to punch, taking such major efforts to suspend their operations.

GM The spokesperson identified two US facilities, separate from the Bedford plant, where the company had continued production: one in Arlington, Texas, where Worker returned About 10 days to build a sport utility vehicle before the plant changes to a new model that was previously reported, and another one in Lockport, NY, where workers have some of this week to service existing vehicles Started making parts.

Production of Corvette parts in Bedford, which primarily supports new vehicles rather than repairs, has been running at some level since March and went on three shifts in April, according to the spokesperson, although parts for other models The construction of has been suspended.

Each of the three big American automakers is counting on a small number of workers during the shutdown, said Brian Rothenberg, a spokesman for the United Automobile Workers Union, and the union has cooperated as long as the work is voluntary and adequate safeguards Are in place.

He said that workers were generally asked to help retool plants so that they could work on tasks such as distribution of parts after reopening or for repair. G.M. About 1,000 workers have also been brought back to make ventilators at the Kokomo, Ind., Plant.

Since its initial closing, U.A.W. It is generally regarded as a premature effort to recall workers, and is opposed by Fiat Chrysler and G.M. Has reacted to the announcements. That they will resume production this month.

“For the start date, the companies contractually made this decision, and we all knew that this day would come,” U.A.W. Chairman, Rory Gamble, Said in a statement In response to Fiat Chrysler’s announcement on Tuesday.

While it is unclear when the Corvette assembly will resume, external analysts underscore the importance of the car – whose most recent model typically sells for $ 60,000 to $ 80,000 – to the company’s prospects.

Morgan Stanley reports In November, it was estimated that the Corvette’s sales in 2020 were GM. Will account for about 2 percent of revenue, an estimated $ 3.3 billion, and the car’s profit margin will be kept at 16.5 percent, nearly double the company’s average in North America. (Analysts later revised their estimates for the impact of the epidemic.)

Analysts at Morgan Stanley said that if the company could take advantage of the car’s brand name and customer loyalty in other businesses such as B.E.V., or battery vehicles, Corvette G.M. May be important for the long-term strategy of.

Analysts wrote, “Corvette is more than a needle-mover for GM”. “We are looking at the possibility of expanding a fictitious Corvette brand. And B.E.V., such as G.M. To help fund the transition to electricity. ”

The report estimated Corvette sales could rise to around 100,000 in 2029, up from 40,000 this year, if the company developed a Corvette SUV. One step other high-end sports car manufacturers have taken and one is that a former GM Bob Lutz, vice chairman, Has requested. (The company declined to comment on future vehicles.)

Since the Morgan Stanley report, however, the Corvette has faced a series of failures. After years in development, the latest Corvette Stingray was scheduled to begin assembly in December. But the car didn’t start shutting down production lines until February, a delay that the company’s emails to dealers attributed to last year’s 40-day strike. Email was Posted on website Corvette Forum.

By March, after a long time G.M. As cars began to be assembled, demand proved so high that the company stopped accepting orders. It redirected new orders for the 2021 model, which the company said It is planned Starting accepting in late May.

GM The spokesperson said the lack of parts of Bedford was a problem as they were used at a critical point in the Corvette assembly.

Two gm Employees in Bayford, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about company operations, said the shortfall had to do with errors during the new production process. The company spokesperson attributed the lack of gradual ramp-up typical to the introduction of a new vehicle.

The spokesman said the Bedford plant had taken a number of steps to ensure workers’ safety, such as daily temperature checks, provision of masks and comprehensive social security measures, such as preventing more than one person from sitting on a locker room bench at once . Many of these measures have been taken more widely GM Ventilator making plant at Kokum.

One of the Bedford workers said that he was not concerned about safety because he worked primarily pouring hot metal alone and could stay at least six feet from colleagues until he needed to consult a supervisor May not be required The employee said that he started working in late March, shortly after the plant closed, and since then he had been in the factory for several weeks, though not every week.

The second worker said he declined the offer to return to the plant, partly out of safety concerns.

“They wanted me to go to work, they needed someone to pour metal,” the worker said. “I chose not to go down. I did not want to risk getting sick. “

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