Is Automakers’ Return First Sign of Hope?
By Dan Markham
on May 12, 2020
I set out this week with a simple objective: find the good news. Surely, buried beneath the discouraging unemployment report, the first-quarter drop in quarterly GDP and the cratering of the oil and gas market, there had to be something positive to hang our hats on.
It wasn’t easy. COVID-19 is doing what government heavy-handedness, geopolitical strife, global steel overcapacity and a host of other events large and small couldn’t manage – bludgeon the economy. And not just here, of course, but all over the globe.
But hidden, or not so hidden, in the dispiriting trends was just that bit of encouragement we all need. U.S. automakers, both foreign and domestic, are in the process of resuming production. Toyota began calling workers back a week ago, followed by Honda this week. The Big 3 domestics will restart operations next week.
It may be hard to remember now, given all that’s transpired in the last eight weeks, but the automakers began to board up plants before the government shutdown orders began in earnest, including the order in Michigan. Those idlings were soon followed suit by similar actions by U.S. steelmakers, particularly the integrated companies, mills heavily tied to the automotive market.
While the automakers’ announcements have not been followed by similar announcements from the U.S. steel mills, here’s hoping the return to production and assembly by the car builders is the first step toward a recovery in the U.S. manufacturing sector.