President and CEO, Alliance for Automotive Innovation
The automotive industry was not immune to the health and economic perils of the coronavirus when the pandemic struck in March. As the economy shuddered beneath the weight of the public health crisis, auto companies, suppliers, and tech partners were forced to dramatically alter operations.
Although all of auto production stopped in North America for the first time since World War II, that did not mean the automotive industry stopped working for America. As the nation’s largest manufacturing sector, the automotive industry adapted to support local communities and our nation during this critical time of need.
As the coronavirus dominated headlines and hit our communities, automakers redeployed supply chains and shifted their considerable capacity for production toward personal protective equipment and sorely needed medical devices, such as ventilators and personal protective equipment.
The industry is made up of people who have incredible skills and strong work ethics, and as manufacturing processes were adapted to respond to COVID-19, the individuals who make up the industry volunteered manpower, time, and money to help their local communities.
Auto executives, engineers, and factory workers pulled together, providing meals, supporting distance learning for school children, and even donating vehicles to frontline workers so they could continue to get to their jobs, even as public transit options were reduced. Additionally, the pandemic has helped highlight the multiple benefits of driverless vehicles that were used to deliver important supplies and products to individuals in need.
Resilience in the face of adversity
It will take years to fully comprehend the toll the COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted on individuals, families, communities, the economy, and the nation. We are proud of how the industry and the men and women we employ across the country have stepped up to meet this challenge. Those men and women are counting on all of us to care just as deeply about the future of their industry.
The restart of auto production and supplier operations across the country also highlights the important planning and thoughtfulness that went into the safe and responsible restart of production that takes into account the needs of workers and their communities based on the best available information from medical professionals.
As the auto industry’s adaptation has shown during the COVID crisis, there’s no question how important our sector and entire workforce is to our nation’s overall economic recovery. Today, the industry includes battery and smart chip manufacturers, software developers, product engineers, and, yes, the stalwart machinists and manufacturing floor workers. Just as the industry provided a rapid response to the public health crisis, it will play a central role in our current economic recovery by getting Americans back to work — in more ways than one.