Automakers, suppliers suspend operations in COVID-19 fight

Tribune-Star file photoADVICS Manufacturing, a brake system supplier located in the Vigo County Industrial Park, is among Wabash Valley automotive industry suppliers saying they will suspend operations to help suppress spread of the COVID-19 virus. ADVICS said it will close from March 22 to April 6. 

Automotive supply manufacturers in the Wabash Valley are halting production starting this week on the heels of automakers closing plants across Indiana and the nation to help suppress the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Workers for ADVICS Manufacturing, a brake system supplier, were notified the plant in the Vigo County Industrial Park will close for two weeks. The closure began March 22 and extends until April 6. The plant employs more than 530 workers.

In a note to employees, the company will pay workers their regularly scheduled hours for the first week of the shutdown. For the second week, employees can choose "vacation, salary allowable-no point or flex hours, or choose unpaid time off for the second week of shutdown," the notice states.

Thyssenkrupp Automotive Technology, a maker of automotive steering columns in the Vigo County Industrial Park, issued a statement Monday evening saying it "will stop operations in Vigo County effective Wednesday.

"We are monitoring closely government actions and will continue to follow their recommendations. In addition, thyssenkrupp Automotive Technology is working closely with its employees, customers and business partners to keep them informed throughout this closure."

Across the state line in Marshall, Illinois, ZF TRW is closed until April 7, according to a notice of layoff sent to employees on March 20. Employees were laid off March 21. The company stated that "under present circumstances, company policies contain no provision for transfer, bumping or reassigment for personnel."

Worker healthcare coverage will continue until the end of March plus up to three additional months at which time an employee would be eligible for COBRA insurance. "Any employee premiums missed during the initial three months will be deducted from your paychecks upon your return to work," the notice states.

The company states employees may be eligible for unemployment compensation. That plant employs about 800 people in the production of airbag control units and crash sensors, electronics for brake systems and for Advanced Driver Assist Systems.

In a corporate news release, the company stated it is suspending many operations in Europe and North America following announcements by truck and car manufacturers.

"Wherever possible we continue to uphold our end of the supply chain to support operations that are still running or have resumed production. We are also preparing to fully support our customers for when the situation calms down and production ramps up," said CEO Wolf-Henning Scheider of ZF Friedrichshafen AG.

In Paris, Illinois, North American Lighting announced it will shutdown its plants in Paris, Flora and Salem, Illinois, from March 21 to March 24, then begin limited production from March 25 to March 27. The plants will then shut down again March 28 and March 29.

The company underwent a "full biohazard remediation and cleaning of the Paris Corporate office," which started March 17 and ended March 20.

"That notwithstanding, the NAL Corporate office will remain closed for another week", with the anticipation of returning to full operation on March 30, the company announced.

The company has 1,280 employees at its Paris facility and an additional 280 employees at its corporate offices in Paris. The company has nearly 6,000 employees overall in facilities in Illinois, Michigan, California, Alabama and about 70 workers at a facility in Elberfeld, Indiana.

NAL produces forward lighting, signal lighting, rear combination lighting, accessory lighting, and all-digital adaptive driving beam lighting for automobiles.

Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Honda and Toyota said they would shut down all factories, citing concerns for employees who work in close quarters building automobiles. Nissan will close U.S. factories. Hyundai shut down its Alabama plant after a worker tested positive for the virus.

Honda has an assembly plant in Greensburg, which is closed March 23 through March 30. The Greensburg plant assembles the CR-V sports utility vehicle and the Honda Civic. The company's 27,600 workers across North America will continue to receive full pay during the shutdown.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing plant in Princeton is also closed from March 23 through April 3, with production resuming April 6, with workers to receive full pay during the shutdown.

"We will conduct a thorough cleaning at all of our manufacturing facilities during the shutdown," the company said in a statement.

The Princeton plant is the top producer of the company's Highlander SUV. TMMI employs about 5,500 Hoosiers.

Subaru of Indiana Automotive will temporarily suspend production at its Lafayette plant, from March 23-29 and all associates will receive full pay during the shutdown. More than 6,000 employees work at the Lafayette manufacturing plant which makes the Ascent, Impreza, Legacy and Outback.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com. Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

Editor's note: This file was edited at 5:45 p.m. Monday, March 23, to add a statement from thyssenkrupp Automotive Technology. 

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