For one fleeting moment last week, it looked as if the North American auto industry was about to come back to life.
It did not.
Tesla, eager to recapture its recent sales momentum, attempted to restart its U.S. supply chain of Midwestern parts makers, including a Faurecia injection molding plant in Saline, Mich., 50 miles from Detroit.
But in a scenario that captures just how confounding and dangerous the global COVID-19 crisis is, Faurecia's factory workers balked at being called back, saying it appeared to some of them that they were being pressed into action despite unanswered questions about their safety from the coronavirus upon returning to plants.
"None of us wants to go back because we think that it's not safe yet," a Faurecia plant employee who asked to remain anonymous told Automotive News. "We don't want to be the guinea pigs."
It is the supreme question of the moment.
Parts manufacturers, automakers, truckers and materials producers are desperately eager to resume building cars and trucks. But given the industry's complicated network of companies and vendors sprawled across the continent — and around the world — how?
"I don't think there's answers for all the questions that are out there right now," said Ray Scott, CEO of Lear Corp., the automotive seating and electronics supplier with 2019 sales of $19.8 billion and 161,000 employees worldwide.
"You know, even though we feel that we can create the safest environment, no one is absolutely 100 percent protected if we don't follow the protocols and adjust," Scott said during an Automotive News podcast last week. "We have to create different situations and protocols within those facilities. And in some cases, that may require us thinking about our plant layout. ... That may require an enormous amount of protective equipment and different policies and practices within those plants."