General Motors to suspend Korea assembly line as virus hits parts supply

SEOUL, South Korea – The biggest United States car company General Motors (GM) was caught up on Wednesday, February 12, in the supply chain disruptions caused by the coronavirus in China when its South Korean unit announced a partial suspension of operations next week.

The coronavirus has killed more than 1,100 people and infected over 44,000 across mainland China, spreading to more than two dozen countries in what is now considered a global health emergency.

China is the world's largest exporter of goods and the extended holidays and movement restrictions imposed by Beijing as it seeks to contain the outbreak have disrupted supplies of items including parts for auto manufacturing.

One of the two assembly lines at GM Korea's Bupyeong complex, west of Seoul, which can make over 400,000 vehicles annually, will be closed next Monday and Tuesday, February 17 and 18, due to shortages of parts from China, a company representative told Agence France-Presse.

GM Korea heavily relies on China for the wiring harnesses that connect vehicles' complex electronics.

But operations could quickly "return to normal" after the two-day break, he said, as Chinese were now "returning to work."

Japanese auto giant Nissan said earlier this week it was suspending operations at its Kyushu plant from February 14 to 17 because of supply shortages from China.

South Korea's Hyundai Motor – which with its affiliate Kia ranks as the world's fifth largest auto manufacturer – suspended operations at its five-plant complex in the coastal city of Ulsan last week.

Production would resume "gradually" this week but the situation remained dependent on the supply of parts, Hyundai said in a statement, without giving precise resumption dates. –