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Ford, GM instruct employees to work from home due to coronavirus

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Key Points
  • Ford Motor and General Motors have instructed employees who can work from home to do so beginning Monday due to the coronavirus.
  • The new guidelines do not include factory workers or those who must physically be present to do their duties.
  • The protocols come days after Michigan, where both automakers have major operations, confirmed its first cases of COVID-19.
Headquarters of the Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan. In a recent survey of 30,000 workers, the auto giant found a majority never want to come back to the office five days a week, and it is taking that data seriously.
James Leynse | Corbis | Getty Images

Ford Motor and General Motors have instructed employees who can work from home to do so beginning Monday due to the coronavirus outbreak that is now spreading through the U.S.

The new guidelines apply globally, excluding China, but do not include factory workers or those who must physically be present to do their duties. The policies are expected to apply for the majority of salaried workers, company officials said. Ford employs 190,000 people globally, including 66,800 salaried employees. GM employs about 168,000 people, including 70,000 salaried employees.

The protocols come days after Michigan, where both automakers have major operations, confirmed its first cases of COVID-19. It's also a day after crosstown rival Fiat Chrysler confirmed an employee at a plant in Indiana had contracted the disease.

Shares of GM and Ford were up about 3% and 2% while Fiat rose 8% as part of a broader market rally.  

Leaders of both automakers said the actions are meant to reduce the spread of the disease, which has grown to at least 1,701 cases in the U.S., including 40 or more deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

"In recent days, though, we've concluded the coronavirus issue has taken on a different dimension – and we need to be proactive to keep our people safe and help limit the spread of the virus in the communities where we live and work," Ford CEO and President Jim Hackett wrote in a message to employees. 

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GM CEO and Chairman Mary Barra echoed those comments Friday morning to her employees as well: "These are important steps to lower the probability of spreading the coronavirus to coworkers, families and communities and to relieve the burden on public resources. It also helps conserve critical resources like cleaning crews, medical staff, and supplies so they can be deployed where they are most needed."

Following the announcements from GM and Ford, Fiat Chrysler confirmed the company is "accelerating" the deployment of working remotely.

In a Thursday letter to employees, Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley said remote working is "now available to all employees" globally. He said for employees to coordinate with their human resources representatives "on how this is deployed department-by-department."