Blockade of truckers quickly forcing automatic plant closures

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This story was significantupdated Thursday at 5:40 p.m..

The wait time for large trucks to cross the Peace Bridge between Canada and the United States is now 101 minutes – and growing, according to the bridge authority’s website.

With a second key assembly plant now hit by shortages, General Motors is no longer waiting for government officials in Canada or the United States to clear delays at two critical Canada-Michigan border crossings.

As Canadian officials – with much pressure from the United States, including President Joe Biden – consider different ways to end the blockade resulting from the ongoing protest against COVID-19 mandates by Canadian truckers, a situation Industry source familiar told GM is beginning to ship components to the United States via the Peace Bridge which connects Fort Erie, Ontario and Buffalo, NY

Using the Peace Bridge rather than the Ambassador or Blue Water Bridges in Detroit and Port Huron, Michigan, respectively, adds at least five hours to travel time, not including potential crossing delays.

A check of online cameras, which are now offline, at the bridge reveal showed a long line of semi-trucks lined up waiting to enter the United States. The Peace Bridge website shows that as of 5 p.m. Thursday, the wait time for large trucks to cross the Canada-US bridge took 101 minutes. Light commercial and passenger vehicles faced no wait times.

According to the company, it canceled three shifts at its Lansing Delta Township plant and has now told workers on the first shift at the Flint, MI truck plant that they don’t need to come on Friday due to parts shortages caused by the long delays. Detroit and Port Huron crossings.

GM is not alone in seeing the cascading effect of the delays as Toyota closed three plants in Ontario, a senior spokesperson confirmed, joining a growing list of manufacturers who have been forced to cut production due to the trucker blockade that has virtually cut off access to two key bridges connecting the United States and Canada.

Ford and Stellantis have also had to adjust their production plans as protests on the Canadian side of the border drag on.

“It’s a mess,” Carla Bailo, CEO of the Center for Automotive Research, or CAR, told Thursday morning. “What we’re seeing is that factories in Canada are really being throttled first. Then factories in the United States that depend on engines and transmissions will be hit next. »

What’s going on with car manufacturers

Stellantis – the automaker resulting from the merger of Fiat Chrysler and the PSA group last year – was the first to be affected by the border crisis. It briefly halted operations at an assembly plant in Windsor producing the Chrysler Pacifica minivan. He has since resumed his activities.

“All Stellantis plants in North America have been operating since Thursday morning, but a number of US and Canadian plants halted their second shifts Wednesday night due to parts shortages caused by the Detroit/Windsor Bridge closure,” said a Stellantis spokesperson said in a statement. .

Toyota RAV4 assembly worker
Toyota’s three plants in Ontario, Canada are closed for the rest of this week. Its operations in Kentucky are also affected.

“We continue to work closely with our carriers to get parts to factories to mitigate further disruptions. The situation at the Ambassador Bridge, combined with an already fragile supply chain, will cause additional hardship for people and industries still struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope that a solution can be found quickly so that our factories and employees can resume their normal activities. »

Toyota’s three operations in Ontario are down for “the rest of the week and then it’s TDB,” chief spokesman Scott Vazin said Thursday morning. The company builds the RAV4 and Lexus RX in Cambridge, Ontario, and the RAV4 Hybrid in nearby Woodstock. “These are base models for both brands,” Vazin said. “It has a huge impact on Toyota.”

Vazin then updated on Thursday afternoon of the impact to the company’s plant in Kentucky.

“Due to a number of challenges related to supply chain, extreme weather and COVID, Toyota continues to face production-affecting shortages at our North American plants. Our teams are closely monitoring the situation and working diligently to minimize the impact on production,” he said.

Stellantis Windsor Line 2020
Stellantis closed its Windsor, Ont., plant that builds the Pacifica due to the trucker blockade, but it’s back up and running.

“Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky have recently been affected by issues related to the Ambassador Bridge blockade. We expect disruptions throughout the weekend and will continue to make necessary adjustments. Although the situation is fluid and changes frequently, we do not foresee any impact on employment at this time.

Ford Motor Co. had two affected operations in Ontario — including an assembly plant in Oakville producing the Edge and Lincoln Nautilus — cut capacity. And a major engine plant in Windsor that serves assembly plants on both sides of the border was down on Wednesday and is back today at reduced capacity, according to a Ford spokesperson.

The potential impact of the trucker blockade is highlighted by the Windsor plant. It produces engines for Ford’s Super Duty pickup trucks, which are assembled in Kentucky and Ohio. They are among the most cost-effective vehicles in the entire Ford lineup.

Toyota factory line Georgetown Kentucky
The Toyota plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, is now affected by the border blockade.

So far, the two U.S. pickup plants have not been affected, said Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker. But a General Motors assembly plant in Lansing, Michigan, became the first factory south of the border to be directly affected by the protests.

why they protest

Thousands of truckers began descending on Canada’s capital of Ottawa, Ont., last month to protest this country’s mask and vaccine mandates. The protests have virtually paralyzed this city. On Monday, the protest began to spread through Windsor, with truckers blocking access to the Ambassador Bridge.

The span, which opened in 1929, is the most important land crossing point between the United States and Canada, handling 25% of bilateral trade between the two countries.

Ford Oakville Plant
The Ford plant in Oakville, Ontario was affected by the blockade.

Authorities responded by redirecting traffic to two other regional border crossings. However, the tunnel between Windsor and Detroit can only accommodate light vehicles. So trucks were sent more than an hour north to the Blue Water Bridge. But protesters moved quickly to tie that bond to the Canadian side as well.

Although some traffic may have passed through the spans, they operated in one direction and at full speed, with trucks taking over four hours to travel from Sarnia to Port Huron.

Government responses

What happens next is uncertain. Earlier this week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “This has to stop.

On Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said President Joe Biden had intervened. The president is “focused on that and we are working closely” with the US Department of Homeland Security and the Canadian government to find ways to end the blockade or work. around.

Biden meets CEOs January 2, 2022
President Joe Biden is looking for ways to end the blockade.

The two bridges process about $100 billion worth of auto parts and finished vehicles each year, according to industry data. But they also serve as key transit points for agricultural products and other goods, noted CAR CEO Bailo. Thus, the impact on the broader economies of Canada and the United States could become severe if a solution is not quickly found.

The auto industry, however, finds itself at a particularly vulnerable point after battling for two years with COVID and an ongoing shortage of semiconductors. There are currently only about 1 million vehicles in U.S. dealer lots, JD Power reported, compared to more than 3 million considered normal for this time of year.

As a result, buyers are struggling to find the new vehicles they want, while facing rapidly rising prices. According to Power and other tracking services, the average transaction price for a new vehicle jumped to around $47,000 at the end of 2021, up more than $10,000 since the pandemic began.

There are only a handful of vehicles at Suburban Ford of Ferndale in inner Detroit, sales manager Brycen Collins told He now fears that his inventory will decrease further due to the blockade.

“All I’ve heard is that we have a few more days before this starts hurting us.”

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