Autos

Barra: GM's North American vehicle production safe from coronavirus until late March

Key Points
  • GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said Wednesday that the automaker has enough parts to continue production uninterrupted "deep into this month."
  • A task force, Barra said, is continuing to monitor the COVID-19 epidemic and make contingency plans in an effort to reduce or eliminate production disruptions.
  • Barra's comments follow union officials last month saying GM's production of the company's highly profitable full-size pickups and SUVs was in jeopardy due to the coronavirus.
Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO of General Motors.
Bill Pugliano | Getty Images

DETROIT — General Motors' North American vehicle production could be impacted by the coronavirus as early as this month.

GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said Wednesday that the automaker has enough parts to continue production uninterrupted "deep into this month."

A task force of employees, she said, is continuing to monitor the COVID-19 epidemic and make contingency plans in an effort to reduce or eliminate production disruptions. She described the situation as "rapidly evolving."

"We're covered quite far into this month and every day they make that better, but it depends what happens around the world," Barra told reporters during an "EV Day" for the automaker. "The team will just keep adjusting."

The impact of the coronavirus on the auto industry has been widespread, including causing factories in South Korea, Japan and other countries to temporarily shutter or adjust production due to parts shortages.

The virus also has taken its toll on auto sales. Moody's Investor Service cut its global vehicle sales forecast last week due to the coronavirus to a decline of 2.5% in 2020 instead of a 0.9% drop.

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Barra's comments follow officials with the United Auto Workers union last month saying GM's production of the company's highly profitable full-size pickups and SUVs was in jeopardy due to the coronavirus.

Union leaders, via social media, reportedly said a parts shortage, including decal applications, could begin as early as February with wider impacts occurring if the issues progress into March.

Vehicles that would be impacted if the plants were to be idled include the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks and Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade SUVs.

None of GM's employees have contracted the coronavirus, according to Barra. Ford Motor confirmed Tuesday that two of its employees in China tested positive for the disease.

GM is the only Detroit automaker to not yet ban nonessential domestic travel for employees in the U.S. It has restricted travel to South Korea, Italy and Japan in addition to China, and any nondomestic trips also require the approval of senior leadership.

Both Ford and Fiat Chrysler this week confirmed restricting all nonessential international and domestic business travel for employees because of the coronavirus outbreak.