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Coronavirus Industry Roundup: April 9

Wide regional variations persist over production plans
#GeneralMotors #Nissan #Volkswagen

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Here is our latest roundup of auto industry activities linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

PRODUCTION

Audi expects to ease back into production on April 14 when its engine plant in Gyor, Hungary resumes. Three European assembly plants will follow on April 20 (Brussels and Neckarsulm) and April 27 (Ingolstadt).

Daimler expects to resume reduced operations as soon as April 20 in Germany at plants in Bremen and Sindelfingen.

General Motors says it will extend downtime at its factories in Brazil for at least 60 days as the coronavirus pandemic worsens there. The facilities were closed on March 30. Workers have been able to use up vacation days to maintain full pay. Now their wages will be cut by as much as 25%.

Hyundai says it will launch two-shift production at its assembly plant in Nosovice, Czech Republic, on April 14 after a three-week shutdown.

Kia has reopened its assembly plant in Zilina, Slovakia, on two rather than three shifts. The facility makes the Ceed small hatchback and Sportage crossover vehicle.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has extended a statewide stay-at-home order through April 30, thereby preventing Michigan factories from reopening until at least that date.

Toyota is adding two weeks to its plant shutdowns in the U.S., which now will remain idle until May 1. The move will lay off 5,000 temporary workers and give 32,000 fulltime employees the option of taking paid leave or foregoing their wages for April 13-17 and taking four special days off later.

Volkswagen in Europe plans to cautiously resume production at its Polo mini-hatch and T-Cross crossover plant in Pamplona, Spain, on April 20. The plan is to begin with one shift working four days per week.

Volkswagen in the U.S. will begin “emergency furloughs” on April 11 for as long as four weeks for workers and maintenance staff at its plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. Employees will continue to receive healthcare coverage and scheduled bonuses.

GOOD DEEDS

General Motors is beginning to distribute face masks produced at its Warren, Mich., factory—eventually at a rate of as many as 1.5 million per month—to local hospitals. GM also is offering to lend its manufacturing expertise to automotive suppliers who want to help ease the supply shortage.

SALES & MARKETING

Ford may go Europe-wide with the “payment holiday” plan it launched for online orders in the U.K. The first three payments are deferred. Buyers also get as much as $1,900 in cash back, which they can spend or apply to the next three payments.

Germany reports a 38% decline in car sales in March, including a two-thirds drop in the last two weeks of the month.

U.K. car sales plunged 44% in March. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders predicts Britain’s full-year sales will fall 25% to 1.73 million units, 10 times the decline it forecast in January.

EVENTS

Formula One, which has postponed or canceled the first eight races in the 2020 season, is tentatively set to begin with the French Grand Prix on June 28. F1 hopes to stage at least 15 races this year—perhaps including multiple contests at the same venue—out of the 22 original planned.

IndyCar has canceled its two-race Detroit Grand Prix weekend until next year. The events had been scheduled for June 4-6 on the city’s Belle Isle.

FINANCIAL

Nissan has asked major lenders for 500 billion yen ($4.6 billion) in credit to help tide it over the coronavirus crisis, according to Reuters. The company says it has enough cash for current operations

Renault’s bonds have been downgraded to “junk” status by Standard & Poor’s, which cites last year’s poor financial performance and the likelihood of “materially” worse results this year. The company has cut executive pay and dropped its dividend for 2019.

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