DETROIT — When the coronavirus cut off the flow of parts from China in early January, most global automakers were ready: Anticipating such a crisis, they had prepared to tap other suppliers and to conserve parts that they had stored. Now, they face fast-moving new threats that seem beyond their control: Falling sales and sickened factory workers as the COVID-19 disease spreads through the United States and Europe. The result is that the auto industry, which helped lead the U.S. economy out of the financial meltdown more than a decade ago, could be forced to reduce spending, slow or shutter factories and draw upon cash stockpiles to weather a pandemic that is likely to tilt the world into a recession. With many countries essentially locked down, professional sports leagues canceling games and dizzying falls in the stock markets, analysts say fear is setting in. That portends diminished consumer confidence and likely lower auto sales. “People aren’t rushing out and saying, ‘Now is a good time to buy a car,’ “ said Brian Collie, global leader for automotive with Boston Consulting Group. “They’re saying, ‘Let’s wait. On hold.’ ” Earlier this month, the consulting firm LMC Automotive lopped nearly 4 million


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