Carmakers slowly resuming production in China despite coronavirus outbreak

Many international companies' China plants have been shuttered for weeks.

February 10, 2020, 5:22 PM

A handful of international automakers with crucial production plants in China have announced they will be returning to work within the next few weeks, as the death toll and the number of new cases from the novel coronavirus continue to soar.

General Motors said it expects to resume production in its China plants starting on Feb. 15, with a staggered start at first based on local employees' safety readiness and how prepared supply chains are, a spokesperson told ABC News on Monday.

GM and its joint ventures in China currently have more than 58,000 employees at a handful of plants, and sold more than 3.64 million cars in China in 2018, according to its website.

Japan's Toyota said that it expects to resume operations at all plants in China starting next week but will begin preparing the plants this week.

"The safety and security of our team members, suppliers and stakeholders continues to be our top priority," the company told ABC News in a statement. "For the week of February 10, all plants in China will start preparing to resume operations from the following week and beyond. We will continue to evaluate the situation."

Toyota operates 12 factories and plants in China, according to Reuters.

A spokesperson for Nissan said it will "restart production in China at the earliest from Feb. 17 at Huadu Plant and Dalian Plant. Restart dates for other plants will differ by plant and we will update as necessary." Nissan produced more than 1.5 million vehicles in China in 2019.

PHOTO: A photo shows Toyota Motor Corp.'s factory in Tianjin, China, Feb. 10, 2020. Operations at the plant have been suspended amid the spread of the new coronavirus.
A photo shows Toyota Motor Corp.'s factory in Tianjin, China, Feb. 10, 2020. Operations at the plant have been suspended amid the spread of the new coronavirus.
Kyodo News via Getty Images

Meanwhile, the electric vehicle maker Tesla resumed production at its Shanghai plant on Monday after receiving support from local officials, Reuters reported. Tesla did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Most of the plants had been shuttered since late January to observe the Chinese New Year holidays, and they remained closed as the outbreak spread rapidly in the following weeks.

As of Monday, the death toll from the virus had spiked to more than 900 in China and the number of confirmed coronavirus cases had swelled to 40,000, the country's National Health Commission reported.

At least 307 additional people in 24 other countries have also contracted the virus, according to the World Health Organization.

The outbreak has brought much activity in the world's second-largest economy to a standstill. The production furloughs in China have rattled the auto industry worldwide, which relies on China's manufacturing.

Nissan said on Monday that supply chain disruption in China would impact production at a plant in Japan.

"Due to supply shortages of parts from China, Nissan Kyushu in Japan will carry out temporary production adjustments on Feb. 14 and 17," the company told ABC News on Monday. The Japanese news outlet Nikkei reported that this could impact the production of 3,000 vehicles.

Similarly, South Korean automaker Hyundai announced last week it was suspending production lines at its plants in Korea because of supply-chain disruptions in China.

"Hyundai Motor will closely monitor developments in China and take all necessary measures to ensure the prompt normalization of its operations," the company said in a statement to ABC News.

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