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The auto industry’s supply base is ramping up production quickly, but it’s probably months away from “normal,” says the Original Equipment Manufacturers Assn.

An OESA poll conducted earlier this week shows that suppliers in North America expect to kick into high gear over the next few weeks, now that carmakers are reopening factories once closed by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Rebound in North America

Three out of four supplier facilities in the U.S. already are operating at some level, and two-thirds of the 24% that aren’t expect to be online within one week, according to the survey.

Canadian suppliers report roughly similar performance in April. They rebounded more slowly than those in the U.S. in early May. But Canadian respondents say they’ll all be back online by the end of next week.

Mexico has been the bottleneck in North America. About 90% of respondents  idled plants or sharply cut production by early April. Only one in five had reopened plants by May 18. The good news: 75% expect to be back online in one week. The others say it will take them two weeks to do the same.

OESA estimates that the North American supply base was still operating at only 20% of capacity on May 18. But the group predicts the ratio will climb to 70% in four weeks and approach 100% four weeks after that.

Slow-Going in Europe

In Europe, suppliers hit their low point in early April, when nine in 10 had closed plants and/or suffered sharp cuts in production.

Suppliers in that region been slowly recovering since mid-April. Now their degree of recovery is in line with the U.S. Half of respondents in that region predict all of their plants will be online within one week; half say they’ll need two weeks to rebound.

China’s Roller Coaster Ride

China, where the pandemic began at the end of December, was well into rebound mode by mid-March. Roughly 40% of suppliers there have been reopening idled plants steadily for at least two months.

Yet the proportion of Chinese suppliers reporting still-closed plants and/or sharply reduced output rose steadily from 30% in mid-April to nearly 50% in early May. (OESA cautions that the low number of survey responses among Chinese suppliers—fewer than 30—may not reflect the supply base accurately.)

OESA’s survey shows that 30% of respondents still had plants closed and/or operating significantly below normal levels just three days ago. Yet all predict they will reopen all factories in one week or less.

The Employee Picture

Two-thirds of those responding worldwide to the OESA poll say they have revised their work-from-home policy for qualified, non-production employees. About two-thirds favor a flexible schedule for alternating between home and office work.

But on average, employers want their eligible staffs to get dressed and show up for at least half the work week.

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