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COVID-19

Auto industry needs healthy workers, supply chains to keep up improved production

Justin Ho Jul 16, 2020
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Outbreaks of COVID-19 cases around the country could threaten the health of workers, demand and supply chains. Jeff Kowalsy/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Auto industry needs healthy workers, supply chains to keep up improved production

Justin Ho Jul 16, 2020
Heard on:
Outbreaks of COVID-19 cases around the country could threaten the health of workers, demand and supply chains. Jeff Kowalsy/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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Manufacturing picked up strongly in June, rising over 7%, according to data from the Federal Reserve. And within those gains, auto production saw the biggest rise.

This is, however, last month we’re talking about, and COVID-19 cases are now picking up again throughout the country.

For an auto manufacturers to keep churning out cars, Kristin Dziczek at the Center for Automotive Research said, manufacturers need healthy demand, healthy supply chains and healthy workers.

“And the outbreaks of cases around the country right now could threaten any one of those three things,” she said.

Dziczek said consumer demand is holding up for now. But supply chains are starting to see some new disruptions. Last week, the Mexican government limited staffing capacity in the state of Chihuahua.

“And there’s a heck of a lot of suppliers there,” Dziczek said.

Health concerns could impact production in the U.S., regardless of whether states mandate production halts.

Independent auto analyst Maryann Keller said we could see some self-imposed shutdowns.

“If you haven’t got workers, you can’t operate a factory, no matter what you’re told to do,” Keller said.

Two weeks ago, the union at a GM factory in Texas asked the automaker to shut down the plant, citing the growing number of cases in the region.

GM said in a statement that the plant uses protocols designed to keep the coronavirus out of the facility.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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