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Global auto firms suspend ops as coronavirus pandemic spreads

From German auto giants like BMW, Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen to Japanese auto majors like Toyota and Honda, global auto companies are halting operations across United States and Europe to stop the spread of novel coronavirus. Last month, the pandemic outbreak had halted operations in China, where the virus originated, and disrupted global supply chain of components.

German carmaker BMW on Wednesday said it would close European and South African factories for over a month and warned that profits this year would be significantly lower due to the crisis. Production at the two factories account for half of BMW’s annual output. “Our production is geared towards sales development forecasts. And we are adjusting our production volumes flexibly in line with the demand. Since (March 18), we (have begun) to shut down our European and Rosslyn automotive plants, which will close by the end of the week. The interruption of production for the mentioned plants is currently planned to run until April 19,” BMW CEO Oliver Zipse said.

With the fresh announcement, BMW joins the league of Daimler, Renault, Volkswagen and Fiat to shut factory doors. The world’s largest carmaker Volkswagen Group said in a statement on March 17 that it will gradually suspend production at its European plants, which would also affect its components plants.
“The spread of coronavirus in Europe is increasingly harming the demand situation. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly difficult to supply outsourced parts to our plants,” said Ralf Brandstätter, chief operation officer, Volkswagen Passenger Cars. Earlier in the week, Fiat Chrysler, PSA Group, and Renault had announced the closure of 35 manufacturing facilities across Europe as authorities imposed severe restrictions on travel and public life.

The number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Europe, especially in Italy and Spain. In Italy alone, 475 deaths were reported on Wednesday. Similarly, automakers in the US are seen taking similar approach as there has been a sharp increase in the number of people getting infected by the virus. Around 10,000 Americans have been infected with coronavirus with the death toll topping 150. Honda said on Wednesday that it will shut down operations in all of its North American factories for six days due to an expected decline in the market, while Toyota said it will halt production at its North America facilities for two days. Earlier, US-based automakers Ford and General Motors had announced closing of their North American production units until at least March 30. In India, however, where the number of COVID-19 cases is reaching 200, automakers have announced measures as work-from-home and workplace hygiene.

India story
In India, automakers have announced measures like work-from-home and workplace hygiene. “Work-from-home has been implemen-ted on a rotational basis… Employees have been sensitised on the importance of home quarantine to ensure maximum effectiveness… The body temperature of all employees is monitored at the entrance.” TVS Motor  Company had said.