Employees at the General Motors Bowling Green Assembly Plant were notified Thursday that the plant – which now has two shifts and about 1,400 employees – is shutting down temporarily at the end of business Friday due to concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic and the national state of emergency.
The shutdown comes after United Auto Workers leaders urged GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler to shut down plants across the nation as a way of protecting employees and their families from the fast-spreading virus that causes the respiratory disease COVID-19.
Media reports indicate GM is closing all its North American factories until at least March 30 and will evaluate the situation on a weekly basis after that. Ford is also reportedly closing its plants through March 30. Fiat Chrysler said it will cease operations at its plants “progressively” through the end of March.
Locally, GM Vice President Phil Kienle notified Corvette workers that the plant is shutting down. In a message to employees, Kienle said GM is “beginning to suspend manufacturing operations across North America today to help contain the coronavirus.”
The message indicated the shutdown is because of market conditions and “to deep clean facilities and continue to protect people.”
Kienle’s message said: “For the entire Bowling Green facility, the decision has been made to run through March 20 and then cease operations until it is decided that resuming is safe and appropriate.”
Employees were asked to empty their lockers and refrigerators and take personal items home in preparation for the “deep cleaning.”
A separate message from UAW Local 2164 Shop Chairman Jason Watson said there is “not a known or definitive return to work date for our facility, much like other facilities across North America.”
The shutdown comes just 10 days after the Bowling Green plant celebrated delivery of the first of the 2020 Corvettes now being assembled at the plant.
After a UAW strike idled the plant for 40 days last fall, GM initiated a second shift at the plant and increased employment in preparation for producing the eighth-generation Corvettes with the revolutionary mid-engine design.
The new Corvette model has been well-received, already garnering the North American Car of the Year award and other honors for its design and performance.