London – Major car makers have continued to suspend production across Europe in response to the global outbreak of Covid-19 (coronavirus) which has led to lower demand and supply-chain disruptions.
German car maker BMW announced 18 March that it was preparing to suspend production at its plants in Europe and Rosslyn, South Africa, until 19 April.
The shutdowns will start at the end of the week, the automotive manufacturer said in a statement.
BMW abandoned hopes for another record vehicle sales year due to the coronavirus, predicting deliveries will be “significantly below” 2019 levels and profitability the weakest in years.
“We take our responsibility seriously, both when it comes to ensuring the protection and health of our employees and to achieving the best possible balance in terms of profitability,” CEO Oliver Zipse said in a statement on Wednesday.
Daimler also announced 17 March that it was suspending most Mercedes-Benz production in Europe for two weeks in an effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
"The suspension applies to Daimler's car, van and commercial vehicle plants in Europe and will start this week," the company said in a news release.
Daimler said it was assessing global supply chains, which it said cannot currently be maintained to their full extent.
In the UK, Nissan has stopped output at Britain's biggest car factory due to the impact from coronavirus.
Nissan's Sunderland factory in northeastern England made nearly 350,000 of Britain's 1.3 million cars last year, producing the automaker's Qashqai, Juke and Leaf models.
"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," Nissan said in a 17 March statement.
Korean car maker Honda also suspended production at its factory in Swindon, UK, after the last shift on 18 March.
In a statement, Honda said the decision was taken because of increasing difficulties with supply chains and to protect employees.
Honda plans to resume production on 6 April but the automaker said the plant's reopening will depend on advice from government and health authorities, as well as market and supply conditions.
The factory builds the Civic compact hatchback for sale in Europe and the U.S. Honda is closing the plant permanently in 2021 as part of a global restructuring.
Elsewhere, Volkswagen Group said 17 March that it was suspending production this week at plants in Italy, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain and is preparing to shut down the rest of its factories across Europe due to the spread of coronavirus.
"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," VW Group CEO Herbert Diess said.
Production will be halted at Pamplona in Spain, Setubal in Portugal and Bratislava in Slovakia before the end of the week.
Most of the automaker's other German and European plants are preparing to suspend production, probably for two weeks.
In North America, General Motors and Ford Motor Co. said they would close all of their manufacturing sites in the US, Canada and Mexico until at least 30 March, marking a costly and dramatic step to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles also said it would begin easing production today, through the end of the month.
Ford said the shutdowns will begin after the 18 March shifts. GM said it will begin, on 18 March, cutting production in a cadence.
Ford also it is temporarily suspending vehicle and engine production at its manufacturing sites in continental Europe, effective from 19 March. The company expects the closure will continue for a number of weeks.
These include Ford’s manufacturing sites in Cologne and Saarlouis in Germany, and the production facility in Craiova facility in Romania.