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Automakers Will Need Months to Get Factories Up and Running

  • Suppliers face cash squeeze, patchwork of stay-at-home orders
  • Carmakers will need to source protective gear for workers
New vehicles sit parked outside the idled Fiat Chrysler Jefferson North Plant in Detroit on March 23.
New vehicles sit parked outside the idled Fiat Chrysler Jefferson North Plant in Detroit on March 23.Photographer: Anthony Lanzilote/Bloomberg
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Automakers are anxious to get their assembly lines rolling again, especially since leaving factories idle is costing them billions of dollars by the week.

But the experience many of them have had in China illustrates just how long a slog it’s going to be before plants are producing at anywhere near pre-shutdown levels. It took almost two months for most of China’s industry to return to some semblance of normalcy -- and that was with the benefit of mobile apps the government installed on citizens’ cell phones to track their movements and potential exposure to Covid-19 infected people.