Here We Go: Worker At Indiana Fiat Chrysler Plant Has Coronavirus

We’ve been holding our breath. We hoped the plant shutdowns and parts interruptions would not come to America. Now, it seems that we’re on the cusp of major auto manufacturing disruptions here. An employee of the Fiat Chrysler transmission plant in Kokomo, Indiana, has tested positive for the coronavirus. This is the first person of any of the three Detroit vehicle manufacturers to test positive for COVID-19. The plant has remained open thus far. A United Auto Workers spokesman said the person is a salaried member of the union. Beyond that, it will not give any further information about the individual according to Detroit News.

The Fiat Chrysler worker has been hospitalized and his working area disinfected

2017 Ford Explorer assembly plant | Getty-0
Workers assemble cars at the newly renovated Ford’s Assembly Plant in Chicago, June 24, 2019. – The plant was revamped to build the Ford Explorer, Police Interceptor Utility and Lincoln Aviator. (Photo by JIM YOUNG / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images)

In a statement, Fiat Chrysler said the person is being treated and is cooperating with local health authorities. It went on to say, “Consistent with CDC guidelines and the company’s own protocols, the company has placed into home quarantine his immediate co-workers and others in the facility he may have come into direct contact with. Additionally, the company has deep cleaned and disinfected his working area and is deploying additional sanitization measures across the entire facility, retiming break times to avoid crowding and deploying social spacing.” 

The company, UAW, state and federal authorities are all monitoring the situation. COVID-19 is so contagious there has been a fear that large gatherings like those existing at manufacturing plants could become a mini-ground zero for spreading the coronavirus. A spokesperson for the UAW said, “We are working closely with Fiat Chrysler on this first discovery of the virus at one of their facilities as well as on the precautions and measures necessary to protect our UAW Fiat Chrysler members and everyone who works in our facilities. The UAW Fiat Chrysler department will continue close communications with Fiat Chrysler on measures that may need to be taken as this very serious situation changes daily and hourly.”

The transmission plant makes parts integral to most Fiat Chrysler vehicles

Workers assemble cars at the newly renovated Ford's Assembly Plant in Chicago
Workers assemble cars at the newly renovated Ford’s Assembly Plant in Chicago | JIM YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images

The transmission plant is integral to most Fiat Chrysler products. It makes transmissions for the Chrysler 300 sedan, all Dodge products, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the Ram 1500 pickup truck. Besides assembly of these transmissions, it also makes transmission components and engine block castings for other Fiat Chrysler vehicles.

As of now, there are 12 reported cases of the coronavirus in Indiana. The only problem with that figure is it doesn’t take in those that may not know they have it or have not reported it. The government has not been proactive in testing people. In South Korea, continuous testing began in February at a rate of 10,000 per day. In the US there has not been 10,000 total tested as of yet. So figures like the one Indiana is confirming are not a reliable estimate of the situation there.

GM is reporting no cases that it knows of and Ford report three employees overseas

Workers help assemble an engine at a GM plant.
Lineworkers at a GM plant | JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images

General Motors is reporting no cases of the virus “that it is aware of.” According to a spokesperson GM is prepared if a case or cases occur. It did not relate what those plans entail. Ford says that three overseas employees have been diagnosed. Two of them were in China and are now recovering. The third was in Germany at one of Ford’s technical centers. That person has been quarantined and 30 people with whom the person worked are working from home.