Due to shortages in semiconductors and other components, the auto industry was already having trouble keeping its factories humming. Now, protests over Canada's health mandates threaten to bring more pain to the production lines.
As protests in Canada stop traffic on the Ambassador Bridge, an important transport link, carmakers had to cancel more shifts. This bridge connects Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. It is also the most important land border crossing in North America.
General Motors has cancelled two shifts at Lansing Delta Township assembly, Michigan, due to parts shortages. Ford however is operating its plants in Windsor and Oakville in Canada at "reduced capacities."
Stellantis, which is the parent company to Chrysler, Ram, and Jeep, claims it has decreased shifts at both plants on either side of the border.
Toyota claims it will experience disruptions at its Canadian plants over the next week, as a result of the bridge blockade. A spokesperson for Toyota says that no jobs will be affected at this time.
The company also notes that supply chain problems, severe weather, and other "COVID related challenges", are all affecting North American production.
Protesters in trucks and other vehicles have blocked streets of Canada's capital for nearly two weeks to protest pandemic-related public healthcare measures and voice other grievances about the Canadian government.
The "Freedom Convoy", then, spread to other cities including Windsor across the Detroit border. Monday was the first day of blockade.
Traffic is currently flowing from Canada to the U.S. but trucks cannot travel the bridge between Detroit and Canada. Canadian plants feel the blockade's impact more acutely.
Shane Wark was the assistant to Unifor's national president. He said that the situation is "fluid" and "changing by the hour". He also stated that there are currently short-term layoffs that affect some members.
He stated that the blockades were creating additional hardship for Unifor members and their families in auto sector after two years of extraordinary production disruptions and supply chain disruptions. It must be ended immediately.
Canada's protests could cause long-lasting disruption to the auto industry
A spokesperson for United Auto Workers stated that the U.S. workers are not affected at the moment.
Automakers warn that prolonged bridge closures could have more serious consequences. North American's auto industry is dependent on a complex network of suppliers. Some parts have to travel across borders multiple times before they can be installed in a vehicle.
Stellantis spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said that "the situation at the Ambassador Bridge, coupled with an already fragile supply network, will cause further hardship to peoples and industries still struggling from the COVID-19 epidemic." "We hope that a solution can be found soon so that our plants and employees can resume normal operations."
Ford spokeswoman, Annette Ford, stated that the blockade on the bridge "hurts customers and auto workers, suppliers, communities, and companies on either side of the border that are already 2 years into parts shortages due to the global semiconductor issue COVID and other" and called for a swift resolution.
Brian Kingston, the CEO of Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association was blunter.
He stated that "the time has come for our government at all levels to enforce its laws, end blockades, and restore cross-border commerce."