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Coronavirus Roundup: March 24

A rundown on auto industry activity spurred by the coronavirus
#Fiat #asia #europe

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Here’s the first in a series of rundowns on auto industry activity related to the coronavirus pandemic:

Production

Aston Martin will suspend all production in the U.K.—including its new DBX crossover—tonight until at least April 20 or when market conditions improve.

Ford will extend its plant shutdowns in the U.S., Canada and Mexico indefinitely beyond the original March 30 deadline, pending market developments.

Ford also has added India, South Africa, Thailand and Vietnam to its list of suspended production locations. Ford says the shutdowns will last “several weeks.”

Marelli, which last week suspended production at most of its European plants, is doing the same at “many” plants in N. America until its OEM customers in the region resume operations.

Mazda is idling most of its plants in Japan (for 13 days beginning March 24), Mexico (10 days starting March 25) and Thailand (10 days from March 30). The company cites parts supply problems and a sharp drop in sales.

Toyota will halt production at five Toyota and Hino assembly plants in Japan on April 3. The shutdowns will last for 3-12 days, depending on the facility and subject to a revival in demand.

Volkswagen plans to idle two assembly plants in Russia from March 30 to April 10 because of parts shortages, Reuters reports.

Regional

Europe’s steel industry, which never fully recovered from the Great Recession in 2008-2009, is cutting back again because auto production has been suspended.

India’s auto industry has shut down for several weeks. The duration will depend on government policy.

Good Deeds

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles confirms to Reuters it is converting an auto plant in China to supply protective face masks at a rate of 1 million per month to healthcare providers in North America. Production is to begin in a few weeks.

Renault workers in Spain who are working from home are conducting a small-scale test using 3D printers to make frames that hold face shields, Reuters reports. The visors are in global short supply among healthcare workers.

Tesla rounded up nearly 1,300 FDA-approved ventilators in China, shipped them to Los Angeles over the weekend and is working with hospital groups on distribution. Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom called it “an heroic effort.” *** Update (4/2/2020) Telsa delivered the wrong machines.

Financial

GM will use its credit lines to boost its cash reserve by $16 billion. The company wants to stockpile cash while it can as global markets get increasingly uncertain. Ford did the same thing last week.

Ford’s credit rating took a hit. Fitch Ratings cited “significant concerns” about the company’s short-term financial performance as it dropped Ford’s ratings to one step above “junk.” Ford is already in junk territory at Moody’s and one step above it at Standard and Poor’s Ratings.

Trade groups representing everyone from dealers to OEMs are urging Congress to do whatever it takes to ensure sufficient liquidity—meaning new loan options—for an industry they predict will see new-car sales plunge 40% this month.

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