India's car industry, which supplies many of SA's cheaper models, shuts down
Mumbai - India's biggest carmaker Maruti Suzuki India as well as others such as Mahindra, Mercedes-Benz, Fiat Chrysler and Hyundai have announced that they will halt production in the country due to the coronavirus outbreak.
This could also have a knock-on effect on South African car sales as a number of popular model ranges are sourced from India. These include the Toyota Etios, Hyundai Atos and Grand i10, Ford Figo, Suzuki Swift and S-Presso, Volkswagen Polo Sedan and more.
The move comes after carmakers shut plants last week in Europe, the United States, Canada and Mexico as the global death toll from coronavirus exceeded 13 000. South Africa has also seen its BMW factory in Rosslyn shut down.
Mahindra said it aims to start making ventilators for coronavirus patients at its manufacturing plants, mirroring similar efforts by other carmakers including Ferrari and Fiat.
At least 341 people have so far contracted the disease in India and five deaths have been reported in country, prompting the government to suspend most train and metro services nationwide and order the closure of shops in several states until March 31.
Maruti, which builds one in every two cars sold in India, said it would immediately shut production and office operations at its facilities in the northern state of Haryana.
"The duration of this shutdown will depend upon government policy," Maruti, which is majority owned by Suzuki, said in a statement on Sunday.
The western state of Maharashtra, which has recorded the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country, is home to one of India's biggest car hubs - Pune, where several car makers are set to halt production indefinitely or until March 31.
Mahindra has stopped manufacturing at one of its plants in Maharashtra and will suspend work at two others from Monday, it said in a statement.
Anand Mahindra, group company chairman, said on Twitter that the company will immediately begin work on how it can make ventilators at its plants.
"A lockdown over the next few weeks will help flatten the curve and moderate the peak pressure on medical care," Mahindra said, adding that it will offer its holiday resorts as temporary care facilities and help the government in building such centres.
Mercedes-Benz and Fiat as well as bike maker Bajaj Auto all said they will halt production at their Pune plants until March 31. Fiat said it will not cut jobs and will continue to pay salaries of all its employees.
India's top-selling bike maker Hero said on Sunday it has stopped manufacturing at all its plants in India, Bangladesh and Colombia.
Tata announced on Friday that it was rapidly scaling down activity at its car factory in Maharashtra and was preparing to close it if concerns about coronavirus deepen.
Meanwhile Volkswagen's India unit said on Sunday it has stopped production at its facility in Pune for three weeks as part of an ongoing business transition and is ensuring the safety of its employees.
Hyundai said on Monday it was suspending production at its Chennai plant from Monday through the end of March in response to the state government's lockdown measures as the virus spreads.