Automakers eye normal production schedules as Ambassador Bridge reopens

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

The automotive industry began to return to normal production schedules Monday with the reopening of the Ambassador Bridge after a week-long blockade, even as other supply-chain disruptions continued to affect some automakers and one estimate pegged the industry's direct losses from trade disruptions in the Ontario cities of Windsor and Sarnia at nearly $300 million.

Anderson Economic Group, an East Lansing-based consulting firm, reported Monday that it estimates the auto industry took a $299.9 million hit in lost wages and production while the Ambassador Bridge was shut down. A convoy of truck drivers and others protesting Canada's COVID-19 restrictions and a vaccine mandate for truckers shut down commercial traffic on the bridge — the conduit of 25% of trade between the U.S. and Canada and a major supply route for the automotive industry — beginning Feb. 7 through Sunday.

The estimate includes lost direct wages of $144.9 million, most of which are in Michigan and Ontario, and $155 million in losses for automakers including General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Stellantis NV, Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., for a total of $299.9 million.

“Within hours of the trade disruption at the Ambassador and Blue Water bridges, we observed shortages and then slowdowns at assembly plants,” Patrick Anderson, Anderson Economic Group principal and CEO, said in a statement. “Only some of that lost production can be made up given the tightness of the auto industry’s supply chain right now, so these are real losses to the men and women working in this industry.”

Meanwhile, General Motors Co. reported Monday that no production in the U.S. or Canada was down as a result of parts shortages. The Detroit automaker's CAMI Assembly plant, which makes the Chevrolet Equinox, had minimal impact due to the blockade, as did the the Lansing Delta Township plant, home of the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse. Flint Assembly, where heavy-duty trucks are built, had some shift cuts as a result of parts shortages.

Ford Motor Co. said its Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake, Ohio — which assembles medium-duty trucks, Super Duty chassis cabs, and the E-Series cutaway and stripped chassis — and Transit production at its Kansas City Assembly Plant in Missouri would be down this week. And some of the Dearborn automaker's other plants — including Kentucky Truck, Chicago Assembly and Dearborn Truck — are operating on reduced shifts. The rest of its plants in North America are running as normal this week, according to the company.

Ford attributed the production impacts to the global semiconductor shortage that's hampered auto production worldwide for more than a year. 

"The global semiconductor shortage continues to affect Ford’s North American plants — along with automakers and other industries around the world," spokesperson Kelli Felker said in a statement. "Behind the scenes, we have teams working on how to maximize production, with a continued commitment to building every high-demand vehicle for our customers with the quality they expect."

The automaker was running its Oakville assembly and Windsor engine plants in Canada at reduced capacity last week, and on Friday said Ohio Assembly Plant was down as a result of a parts shortage associated with the blockade.

While the Ambassador Bridge crossing was blocked, production at Stellantis NV's Brampton (Dodge muscle cars and Chrysler 300 sedan), Windsor (Chrysler Pacifica minivan), Toledo (Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator) and other U.S. plants all had shifts affected at some point during the blockade. The automaker did not immediately say Monday whether it was experiencing any additional impacts this week.

American Honda Motor Co. said Monday that all automotive manufacturing operations in the U.S. were up and running, but its Canada operations were running production on only one line Monday "due to previously scheduled downtime unrelated to the border issue," according to spokesperson Chris Abbruzzese. 

As of Monday afternoon, Toyota Motor North America reported that the three lines at its plants in Canada still were not running and only certain lines were running at the three plants in Kentucky, Alabama and West Virginia that had been affected by the situation at the border, according to spokesperson Kelly Stefanich, though the Japanese automaker said it expects supply-chain issues to improve throughout the week.

"We expect related disruptions to continue this week, and we’ll make adjustments as needed," said Stefanich.

Twitter: @JGrzelewski

Staff Writers Kalea Hall and Breana Noble contributed.