Feb 14, 2022 - Economy

Auto industry restarts work after end of U.S.-Canada bridge blockade

Ambassador bridge

Trucks drive towards the Ambassador Bridge border crossing on Feb. 14 after its reopening. Photo: Geoff Robins/AFP via Getty Images

The auto industry started to return to business as usual on Monday after the reopening of a major U.S.-Canada border crossing that had been shutdown by people protesting vaccine mandates and other restrictions.

Why it matters: The blockade of Ambassador Bridge, which connects Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit, Michigan, and is one of the busiest crossings between Canada and the U.S., compounded pre-existing supply chain problems and negatively affected the auto industry.

  • Manufacturers like Toyota and Ford cut production by shutting down selected plants and reducing production lines.

State of play: It may take the auto industry several weeks to fully return to normal, Peter Nagle, a principal analyst specializing in the auto industry, told the New York Times.

  • Toyota, which saw disruptions to its facilities in Ontario, Kentucky, Alabama and West Virginia, expects delays to persist this week as the supply chain catches up but predicts improvement in the coming days, per the Times.
  • General Motors told the Times that its factories have now returned to normal, while international auto maker Stellantis said it hopes to make up for its lost production in the coming months.
  • Border-related disruptions compounded supply chain issues for Ford, and one of its facilities will remain closed this week due to chip shortages, the Times reported.

What they're saying: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) called the reopening of the border crossing a "win for Michigan’s working families" in a statement Monday, adding that "it’s time to get traffic and trade moving across North America’s busiest land border crossing again."

  • "I want to thank the unified coalition of business leaders and organizations representing working men and women on both sides of the border for coming together to get this resolved."

Our thought bubble, from Axios’ Joann Muller: Automakers should be able to recover soon enough. This is sort of like a labor strike, or supplier interruption: It's inconvenient, but they can make up for lost production pretty quickly.

  • The chip shortage remains a much larger, long-term issue, and carmakers are working through that as they can. The blockade is a reminder, though, of why another major crossing is needed. The new Gordie Howe Bridge is under construction.
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