Battling through an economic collapse triggered by a subprime mortgage crisis is different from dealing with one set off by a virus. Yet in some ways, the challenges are similar.
So it's helpful to reflect on what industry leaders were saying 11 years ago, the final year of the Great Recession, when U.S. auto sales sank to a nearly three-decade low of 10.4 million. The words that follow came from 11 executives — automaker CEOs and North America chiefs — who were in charge then.
We hear echoes of their concerns and strategies in what today's leaders are saying. And that provides some measure of hope for a repeat of the efforts that set the industry on a streak of recovery leading to record sales and profits over the past decade.
Their thoughts, blended here, as spoken to Automotive News in 2009:
This was a really tough year. We are barely making a profit. We have an increasing number of signs that the worst could be over.
There could be a setback. The more likely scenario is that we are at the beginning of a slow but long and consistent recovery. In China, the worst that happened is the growth rate fell, and it is bouncing back. The U.S. is at a pretty bad level. In Europe, it is different from country to country.
The most important thing for us is having a viable supplier network. We have a core number of critical suppliers, and we depend on them for the majority of our business. Some suppliers are of greater concern than others.
The supply base is very fragile. Their challenge is to bring back the production. A lot of them have been down. It is really a stressful situation. This next two or three months is going to be critical. We have dramatically increased our cooperation and are working together with every key part — because any part can stop you.