Ford (F) - Get Report announced that it will be suspending production at manufacturing facilities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico starting after Thursday evening's shifts and lasting through March 30 in order to clean and sanitize the company's plants.
Later in the day, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler both followed suit, saying they would close manufacturing operations in North America until the end of March.
The moves came a day after the United Auto Workers union sent a letter to the Big Three Detroit automakers urging them to consider a shutdown to protect workers from contracting the virus.
“We’re continuing to work closely with union leaders, especially the United Auto Workers, to find ways to help keep our workforce healthy and safe - even as we look at solutions for continuing to provide the vehicles customers really want and need,” said Ford North America President Kumar Galhotra.
“In these unprecedented times, we’re exploring unique and creative solutions to support our workforce, customers, dealers, suppliers and communities.”
Later in the day, Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley said in a statement that “working with the UAW, and having visited many of our plants yesterday, we need to ensure employees feel safe at work and that we are taking every step possible to protect them. We will continue to do what is right for our people through this period of uncertainty.”
Ford said it and the UAW will work together over the next two weeks on plant restart plans as well as exploring additional protocols to help prevent the spread of the virus.
The move comes after Ford temporarily closed its Michigan Assembly Plant final assembly building after an employee there tested positive for coronavirus.
"Today’s action is the prudent thing to do. By taking a shutdown and working through next steps, we protect UAW members, their families and the community,” said Rory Gamble, president of the UAW. “We have time to review best practices for when the plants reopen, and we prevent the possible spread of this pandemic. We commend Ford for working with us and taking this bold step.”
Last week, General Motors joined Ford in asking corporate employees who could work from home to do so until the threat of spreading the disease has abated.
Editor's note: story has been updated to reflect that GM and Fiat have now halted production also.