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Ford, Nissan and VW halt production amid coronavirus dealership closures

Volkswagen tower

Ford, Nissan and Volkswagen have followed PSA Group’s lead by suspending vehicle production at their European plants due to the outbreak of COVID-19 coronavirus.

Following on from PSA Group’s announcement of plans to close its manufacturing facilities in France, Germany, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Luton in the UK until March 27, the US, Japanese and German carmakers announced their own plans yesterday (March 17).

Nissan closed the doors at its Sunderland plant yesterday and Ford said that its closures, which it expects to last “a number of weeks", would officially commence tomorrow (March 19).

Ford’s Valencia assembly and engine facility in Spain already temporarily halted production from Monday, March 16, after three workers were confirmed with coronavirus over the past weekend, however.

A statement issued by the brand said that component supplies to Ford manufacturing sites in Europe have been increasingly interrupted, adding that sales of vehicles across the industry have declined with “dealerships required to temporarily close their sales operations in some countries”.

It added that the servicing of vehicles was regarded as “an important societal need” and stated that Ford dealerships are continuing to provide essential maintenance and service across the continent. 

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

“Due to the dramatic impact this ongoing crisis is having on the European market and the supplier industry – together with the recent actions by countries to restrict all but essential travel and personal contact – we are temporarily halting production at our main continental Europe manufacturing sites.”

Ford said that the exact duration of its plant closures would depend on a number of factors, including: the spread of the coronavirus; national government and European Union restrictions on movement, including across borders; the supplier industry’s ability to supply components; and the return of customers to dealerships, many of which are now closed as part of the measures taken at a national level.

Nissan stopped production at Sunderland - where is Qashqai, Juke and LEAF eletcric vehicle (EV) model are built - after it identified a drop in demand as well as problems getting parts from China.

A statement issued by Nissan said: "Vehicle production has been suspended today in Nissan Sunderland plant.

"Further measures are currently under study as we assess supply chain disruption and the sudden drop in market demand caused by the Covid-19 emergency."

Volkswagen has initially halted its production operations at facilities in Wolfsburg, Emden, Dresden, Osnabrück, Zwickau, Bratislava (Slovakia), Pamplona (Spain) and Palmela (Portugal) as well as the Components plants at Brunswick, Chemnitz, Hanover, Kassel, Salzgitter and SITECH.

The factories are expected to remain closed for an initial period of two weeks and will apply from the end of VW’s late shift on Thursday.

Ralf Brandstätter, chief operation officer of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand, said: “The spread of coronavirus in Europe is increasingly having an adverse impact on the demand situation.

“At the same time, it is becoming increasingly difficult to supply our plants with outsourced parts.

“For this reason, we have decided to run production down in a coordinated way from the end of the late shift on Thursday.

“We are convinced that this will also be in the interests of our employees who are becoming increasingly concerned about the spread of corona.”

In its annual financial results for 2019, which were published this morning (March 18), Pendragon said that it understood its OEM partners had new vehicle inventories which could maintain supply for “several months”, adding that it did not expect to be impacted by vehicle shortages until the autumn.

While this may be the case for some brands, the recent flurry of coronavirus-prompted factory closures are likely to stall supplies of newly-launched vehicles like the Ford Puma crossover, the eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf and ID 3 electric vehicle (EV) and hamper supplies already reduced due to OEM efforts to mitigate the impact of fines resulting from 2020/21's roll-out of strict new CO2 emissions legislation.

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