Editor's note: A previous version of this story included an incorrect plant schedule for BMW.
Auto workers at Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co. and BMW's U.S. assembly plants are finding themselves in an unfamiliar situation as their employers furlough thousands of them with no pay because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those and other nonunion automakers in North America have rarely resorted to layoffs in the past few decades, except during the 2007-09 economic crisis. To avoid sending workers home with no pay, international auto companies have relied on plant expansions, new-model additions and even make-work activities to keep work forces on the clock. Many also rely on pools of temp workers that can be increased or decreased as the market warrants, without cutting into regular employee rosters.
But the new health crisis is starkly different, as the industry halts operations worldwide.
A Nissan spokeswoman said about 10,000 workers at plants in Tennessee and Mississippi were furloughed starting Monday. Nissan has suspended U.S. production through April 27.
The unpaid furloughed employees are eligible for unemployment, including newly passed enhanced unemployment benefits. They will continue to receive health insurance, the spokeswoman said.
Nissan said it expects furloughed employees to return to their current positions when the shutdown ends. Some employees essential to business operations are scheduled to work and will be paid for time worked.