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Mexico creates confusion over auto restart, now points to June 1

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MEXICO CITY — Mexico on Thursday appeared to push back by two weeks the date when automotive plants can return to work after the coronavirus lockdown, creating confusion among companies about when they can restart supply chains that are tied to U.S. manufacturing.

The government on Wednesday had indicated the sector would start reopening on Monday, May 18, and published advice to that effect in a page in its official gazette.

The government later withdrew the page from the gazette without clarifying whether it would affect the dates of the restart. On Thursday, it published fresh instructions in the gazette indicating the industry would not reopen until June 1.

In a sign of the uncertainty General Motors said it could not currently say when it would restart Mexican operations.

One industry body representing auto suppliers said it would not adhere to the new date of June 1, and considered the previous May 18 restart date as having legal force.

“We will start to operate according to page 29 of the decree published in the official gazette yesterday,” said Alberto Bustamante of the National Autoparts Industry lobby group.

“We are seeking clarity about the situation as soon as possible,” one industry source said.

Despite the intensifying challenge posed by the pandemic in Mexico, the United States and auto companies have been pressing its government to reopen factories quickly because automakers will struggle to operate without parts from south of the border.

GM’s pickup plant in Silao is critical to the Detroit company’s North American operations and had been expected to reopen next week.

“But just now I have just been told we will not restart until June 1. For now we will only be able to use the next weeks to get ready to restart the operation,” said a source in the Silao labor union, who asked not to be identified.

A GM spokesman said the company was “analyzing the situation and the government’s indications” adding that it could not currently say when its restart date would be.

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