When the U.S. economy last ground to a near halt a dozen years ago and the nation’s auto plants largely stopped producing vehicles, Toyota adopted a bold but expensive strategy that made it stand out from other automakers: It continued to pay all of its workers — even if it didn’t have work for them to do.
Now, as the coronavirus begins to tear through the U.S. auto industry just as the financial crisis did in 2008-09, automakers again must weigh the costs of keeping their employees on the payroll or sending them off to the unemployment line. And even for Toyota, much of that decision may rest on how long they believe the virus will continue to plague their markets.
So far, transplant automakers that have called temporary halts to production operations have each committed to continue to pay their employees while plants remain closed.
Meanwhile, the unionized work force of the Detroit 3 will receive a combination of unemployment benefits and negotiated union subpay while their…