By on February 20, 2020

If you recall our piece from yesterday, automakers like Nissan are counting on Chinese workers to return to their factories on February 21st, thus preventing a widespread parts shortage that could idle plants on a global scale. That date would be the first day of resumed work in Hubei province following a government-mandated shutdown of all facilities — a tactic aimed at halting the spread of novel coronavirus.

If workers return Friday, the thinking went, the supply chain disruption currently afflicting the world’s automakers won’t be too bad. Well, bad news.

China now says Hubei won’t come online until March 11th.

As reported by Reuters, the province has asked its workplaces to stay shuttered, with only those providing essential public services allowed to open their doors. That list includes, obviously, workplaces tasked with getting a handle on the viral outbreak. Schools will remain closed and presumably all factories will, too.

A report in Bloomberg Wednesday said Nissan sources 800 vehicle components from Hubei, with sources claiming plant shutdowns will begin in Japan as early as Feb. 23 if workers don’t return on the 21st. Other automakers face similar hurdles. The likes of Hyundai and Fiat Chrysler have already seen non-Chinese plants go dark in response to the parts disruption.

Thus far, no North American plant has had to stop production, though a UAW local warned last week that General Motors’ U.S. truck plants could be in danger if the coronavirus crisis continues into March. A GM spokesperson soon responded, claiming the automaker was doing what it could to locate other sources.

A growing concern in the region is a new outbreak in South Korea, linked to a “super-spreader” who was a member of a religious sect. One person died in that country Thursday as the number of infected rose above 100.

“We are seeing infections in some areas like Seoul and Daegu where it’s difficult to confirm the cause or routes of the infections,” South Korea’s vice health minister Kim Gang-lip told the Associated Press. Some 2.5 million people living near the epicenter of the new outbreak have been told to stay home and not venture outdoors.

Should the outbreak spread, it would put that country’s factories — and output — in peril.

[Image: IHOR SULYATYTSKYY/Shutterstock]

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13 Comments on “Bad Omen: Shutdown Extended in China’s Manufacturing Heartland...”

  • avatar

    No surprise to me. I figured all the happy talk about Chinese factories reopening last Monday was delusional. The rate of infection in China may have slowed down, but that is probably because everyone is staying home.

    The largest outbreak outside of China has been on the cruise ship at Yokohama. All the passengers were restricted to their cabins, but the ship’s crew went about it’s daily work, and the virus spread and spread. The same would happen if factories reopened.

    If everything goes well, it will take a year to produce a vaccine. Before then, the only way to stop the spread is isolation.

    How does this impact the auto industry? They better start looking for alternate sources, and, once their supply chains are shifted to sources in Mexico and Brazil, for instance, they may never shift back to China.

    • 0 avatar

      I was reading that the flu virus can survive outside the human body (on certain types of surfaces) for up to 2 days. The SARS coronavirus can survive for up to 9 days. They haven’t yet figured out how long the 2019-nCoV virus can live on surfaces. But if it’s close to the SARS lifespan, it helps explain why it’s spreading so easily.

  • avatar

    I wonder if this will be China’s Chernobyl?

    Either way all these American companies worked with a communist country to take work away from their own country of origin, so again, no sympathy here they will reap what they sow.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s no guarantee that the US won’t eventually have an outbreak and similar levels of disruption. What if, 6 months from now, China has their situation under control in 6 months, and the US is the region closing workplaces?

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Such an outbreak is never as big of an issue in this part of the world due to the lower population density. Look at SARS, Swine Flu and other outbreaks. They hit Asia much larger because of this.

      • 0 avatar

        Almost all epidemics originate in 3rd world (or 2nd world in China’s case), the US has better protocols to deal with this, a population with much better understanding of infectious diseases and hygiene, and has reacted very swiftly. The US has even found medicine that helps treat this flu.

        • 0 avatar

          It has been said often enough that China is only good for three things:

          1. Great food.
          2. Cheaply-made goods.
          3. The annual flu virus.

          The proximity of people, fowl and swine cohabitating in crowded spaces is a great breeding ground for microbes.

          • 0 avatar

            highdesertcat The myth of China being a world economic powerhouse is bunk. Gleaming skylines and “ghost-cities” from far away look fantastic. Get close up or out into the rural areas and you see a China that is the model of a pre-industrial dictatorial authoritarian state.

            Poisoned tap water, raw sewage flowing in open drains / ditches, carcinogenic air and crumbling (all party owned) housing stock. ….all recipes for a circa 1400 AD pandemic.

            As for the corporations of the 1st world who sold their soul in exchange for cheap parts, time to pay the piper.

          • 0 avatar

            “ Get close up or out into the rural areas and you see a China that is the model of a pre-industrial dictatorial authoritarian state.”

            Like, say, Mississippi and Alabama?

      • 0 avatar

        “and the US is the region closing workplaces?”

        Then we blame the State Department for ignoring the CDC and bringing infected people into the country. We should have NOT “repatriated” anyone. Quarantine them at a military base in S. Korea, DO NOT let them come back to the USA until they’re guaranteed healthy.

        State Department needs a house-cleaning. Or a fire-sale. “Everything Must Go!”

  • avatar

    The sad part is that China has been under reporting deaths from the flu virus. In a separate story about the funeral industry in China that was posted earlier this week, crematoriums are working 24/7 to keep up with the piles of bodies. If you do the math, the death count is being under reported by half or more. Things are so bad that portable incinerators are being brought in (a dozen or more) to handle “medical waste”. You do the math. China has been lying.

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