Automotive industry sees impacts of coronavirus


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Coronavirus concerns are spreading to the automotive industry, and automakers and suppliers in North America are bracing themselves for possible shortages ahead.  

IHS automotive industry analyst Mike Wall told News 8 Tuesday that the issue stems from automotive manufacturers based in affected areas of China, where many plants have been shut down for weeks in an effort to keep workers home and the virus from spreading.  

Wall said the good news is that some plants are getting back to work, but it’ll be some time before production returns to full speed.  

“It’s going to be a slow ramp up at the end of the day because in some cases you may not have a fully-staffed plant,” Wall said. “There are some folks who may still be quarantined maybe in a nearby town.” 

According to Wall, the standstill in production has mostly impacted automakers in China as the affected plants largely produce parts for Chinese suppliers.  

Closer to home, Wall said automakers and suppliers in North America have yet to feel much, if any, effect from the coronavirus. 

However, the U.S. auto industry is currently strategizing for possible shortages to come.  

“Automakers and suppliers alike are really analyzing their supply chain,” Wall said. “Dissecting it, taking it from that finished part all the way to the raw material and figuring out where is that component coming from and where is that component’s component coming from, to make sure that if it is in a vulnerable area, what can be done to make other arrangements, (like) find another supplier temporarily.”  

Wall said the industry has survived similar supply chain shortages, comparing the current situation and its effects on the automotive industry to that experienced after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. 

In the meantime, Wall said automakers and suppliers across the country will work together to try and mitigate the effects felt by consumers.

“If an automaker says, hey we can’t get this part because it’s in the quarantined area. Can you help us?,” Wall said.  “So, we’re seeing examples of suppliers and automakers all kind of pitching in where need be to try and fill in those gaps.” 

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