Major auto companies announce European plant closures to stem coronavirus spread

March 18, 2020

As the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) continues throughout Europe, a number of major automotive companies have announced temporary plant closures to help stem the spread of the virus. The news comes as factories in China, the first country to be affected by Covid-19, begin their return to work following the crisis. 

Volkswagen Group, Groupe PSA, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company, Groupe Renault, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ferrari and Nissan have all announced temporary production suspensions at European facilities this week. 

Volkswagen Group

Volkswagen Group will suspend production at its Spanish, Portuguese, Slovakian and Italian plants by Friday, March 20, due to the effect of the pandemic on its sales and supply chains, after its works council is reported to have concluded that it is not possible for workers at its production plants to maintain a safe distance from each other to prevent contagion.

Most of VW’s other German and European factories will also prepare to suspend production, likely for two or three weeks, while Audi noted separately that it would halt output at its plants in Belgium, Germany, Hungary and Mexico. Volkswagen’s factory in Puebla, Mexico, and plants in Brazil and the United States are not yet affected.

Herbert Diess, VW Group’s Chief Executive, commented, “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.”

Groupe PSA

Groupe PSA announced in an official statement earlier this week that it would close its European plants due to Covid-19 cases being reported close to certain production sites, supply disruptions from major suppliers, and the resulting sudden decline in the auto markets. 

Its sites in Mulhouse, France, and Madrid, Spain, were closed on March 16, followed by its plants in Poissy, Rennes and Sochaux, France; Zaragoza, Spain; Eisenach and Rüsselsheim, Germany; Ellesmere Port, UK, and Gliwice, Poland, on March 17; Hordain, France; Vigo, Spain and Mangualde, Portugal, on March 18. It will close its plants in Luton, UK, and Trnava, Slovakia, on March 19.

At present, the group expects its plants to remain closed until March 27.

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has announced that it will suspend production at its Goodwood, UK manufacturing plant as of Monday, March 23, for two weeks. This suspension will be followed by its already-planned two-week Easter maintenance shutdown. 

Torsten-Müller-Ötvös, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, commented on the closure, “This action has not been taken lightly, but the health and well-being of our exceptional workforce is first and foremost in our minds. We are a tight-knit community at the Home of Rolls-Royce and I have no doubt that our resilience will shine through during this extraordinary time.”

Daimler AG

Daimler Group reported that it will suspend the majority of its production in Europe, as well as work in some of its administrative departments, for an initial period of two weeks, on the recommendation of international, national and local authorities. The suspension applies to Daimler’s car, van and commercial vehicle plants in Europe and will begin this week.

The group noted that it will also be carrying out an assessment of global supply chains, which cannot be maintained to their full extent during the pandemic. Not all Daimler facilities will close, and the company added that where operations must continue, it will take appropriate precautions to prevent infection of its employees. It further stated that it will use the closure period to prepare for a period of temporarily lower demand, protecting its financial strength. 

Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company is suspending vehicle and engine production at its manufacturing sites in continental Europe, both to limit the spread of the virus and to limit the impact of supply chain disruptions and the drop in vehicle sales. The company noted that the suspension is expected to last a number of weeks.

The company’s vehicle manufacturing sites in Cologne and Saarlouis, Germany, and its Craiova facility in Romania, will halt production from Thursday, March 19. Production was suspended at its assembly and engine facility in Valencia, Spain, on Monday, March 16, after three workers tested positive for Covid-19.

“While the impact of coronavirus at our facilities has so far been limited thankfully, its effects on our employees, dealers, suppliers and customers, as well as European society as a whole, are unprecedented,” stated Stuart Rowley, President, Ford of Europe. 

“It’s at difficult times like this when we must stand united and put people first,” he added. “We at Ford will play our part in the weeks ahead to help get through this crisis, reduce its spread and alleviate its effects wherever we can.”

Groupe Renault

Over the past week, Groupe Renault has announced a number of plant closures, beginning with the suspension of production in Spain on March 16; followed on March 17 by the closure of its plants in Tangier and Casablanca, Morocco, Revoz, Slovenia, and Cacia, Portugal; and finally its plant in Mioveni, Romania, on March 18. 

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

On March 16, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles suspended its FCA Italy and Maserati brands through the majority of their European manufacturing plants. The temporary suspension is expected to be in effect until March 27, and in addition to helping limit the spread of Covid-19, the company believes it will enable the group to effectively respond to the interruption in market demand caused by the market. 

The closure applies to the group’s Melfi, G. Vico, Cassino, Mirafiori Carrozzerie, Grugliasco and Modena plants in Italy, its Kragujevac plant in Serbia, and its Tychy plant in Poland.

Ferrari

Ferrari has closed its plants Maranello and Modena, Italy, until March 27. The company stated that while it has so far ensured production continuity, having implemented the health measures advised by the Italian government at the two sites, supply chain issues have now made it impossible to continue production. 

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

Nissan has announced measures at its UK manufacturing operations in response to the spread of Covid-19 in the country, closing its Sunderland plant and of March 17 until the end of the week. The company stated that it is following advice from national governments and has implemented a range of measures to ensure the welfare of employees.

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