File picture: Mercedes-Benz.
File picture: Mercedes-Benz.

Motor industry in lockdown as more European and US plants shut

By Staff Reporters Time of article published Mar 18, 2020

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International - Car manufacturers in Europe are temporarily halting production due to the spread of the coronavirus, while US companies have agreed to a "rotating partial shutdown" of their facilities to protect workers.

Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Nissan are the latest companies to announce shutdowns in Europe, following similar moves made by Volkswagen, Fiat Chrysler, Peugeot and Renault earlier in the week.

Mercedes parent company Daimler announced on Wednesday that it would halt most of its production in Europe, as well as work in selected administrative departments, for an initial period of two weeks. "An extension of this measure will depend on further developments," the company said.

"With these closures, Daimler is helping to protect its workforce, to interrupt chains of infection and to contain the spread of the pandemic," it added. "At the same time, this will help the company to prepare for a period of temporarily lower demand and to protect its financial strength."

BMW meanwhile said that it planned to halt all production in Europe, as well as South Africa, for four weeks.

"Starting today, we will power down our European car factories and the Rosslyn plant in South Africa. The interruption in production is currently planned until April 19," BMW chief executive Oliver Zipse said on Wednesday.

Nissan has stopped output at Britain's biggest car factory due to the impact from coronavirus as it assesses supply-chain disruption and the drop in demand. Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port car factory in northern England was also due to close on Tuesday until March 27 as party of parent company Peugeot's plans to shut sites across the continent to handle the crisis.

The Volkswagen Group also announced that it would be suspending production at factories across Europe.

"Given the present significant deterioration in the sales situation and the heightened uncertainty regarding parts supplies to our plants, production is to be suspended in the near future at factories operated by group brands," Chief Executive Herbert Diess said on Tuesday.

Ford has temporarily suspended vehicle and engine production at its manufacturing sites in continental Europe, effective from Thursday, and this shutdown is expected to continue for a number of weeks.

Jaguar Land Rover, however, plans to keep making vehicles at its domestic factories until at least the end of the week despite the impact from coronavirus.

"All of our UK plants remain open and we plan to keep building cars until at least the end of the week subject to the ongoing supply of parts," it said in a statement. 

Partial shutdown in America

The big three US car companies - General Motors, Chrysler and Ford - are set to embark on a "rotating partial shutdown" of their facilities to protect workers from the outbreak, according to the union that represents the workers.

The United Auto Workers' (UAW) union said the companies would also put in place a host of measures to comply with US government recommendations on preventing close contact between employees, with more details to come in the next 24 hours.

The UAW was calling on the carmakers to cease production for two weeks to protect their members.

There has been one positive case of coronavirus reported at a GM plant, the union had said earlier.

The companies and the unions formed a task force days ago to deal with the coronavirus.

Reuters & DPA

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