How an Explosion in Michigan Shutdown Domestic and Foreign Auto Makers

Meridian Magnesium Products
Auto makers served by Meridian Magnesium Products.

An explosion at Meridian Magnesium Products in Eaton Rapids, MI is backing up production for several auto makers and closing plants at various American locations.

The Chinese-owned plant is a major manufacturer of die cast components for cars. Its parent company – Wanfeng Auto Holding Company – aims to be the “unquestioned leader in magnesium die cast design, engineering and technology.”

The unexplained Meridian explosion on 2 May and subsequent plant shutdown shows in dramatic form how auto manufacturers are interdependently-linked. By extension, it also illustrates how a trade war between the US and China over aluminum and steel could affect American workers and products. Magnesium die cast auto components contain aluminum, and depending on quality, levels of aluminum can range from 5.5 to almost 10 percent. In other words, aluminum is an essential ingredient. Aluminum tariffs planned by Trump would have a deleterious affect on auto production in the US.

About 200 people are out of work while the Meridian plant is being rebuilt according to the Lansing State Journal. Ford announced that it will indefinitely suspend production of its F-150 trucks, America’s best-selling vehicle and top profit maker for the company. This stoppage is due to the Meridian explosion and will affect 7600 workers. The displaced employees are located at Ford’s Kansas City (Missouri) Assembly Plant and its Dearborn, Michigan Truck Plant.

To make matters worse, just a few days prior to the Meridian fire, Ford announced that it is halting production of many of its passenger cars and focusing on the F-150s, SUVs and commercial vehicles. The cost-cutting move is now complicated by the production halt at plants that make these vehicles.

In addition, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler are suffering a logjam because of the Meridian shutdown. The fire affected production at the Fiat Chrysler plant in Windsor, Ontario, says USA Today. That facility makes the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, the Pacifica Hybrid and the Dodge Grand Caravan.

The Detroit News reported that “BMW and Mercedes-Benz also have halted or adjusted production on some vehicles in the U.S. and Canada as a result of the May 2 explosion and fire at Meridian Magnesium Products in Eaton Rapids.”

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