Another day, another closure. And this feels like just the start. Now Porsche has made the move to close both Zuffenhausen and Leipzig from this Saturday, March 21st, for "an initial period" of two weeks. That's in addition to a ban on business travel, meetings taking place over video call and a significant extension in working from home. While the move has been taken for obvious reasons, it should be noted that Porsche has pointed out in addition that "bottlenecks in global supply chains no longer allow orderly production."
Porsche's Chairman Oliver Blume said: "We can only overcome the pandemic together and by taking rigorous measures." His statement also added: "With these measures, our company contributes to protect the workforce and reduce the spread of the coronavirus... What is clear is that 2020 will be a very challenging year".
It certainly feels like we'll be hearing that statement again a fair bit over the next couple of weeks. With Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce and Porsche now temporarily halting production, it almost seems a question of when and not if global car manufacturing will stop. More news as it's available.
Following the decisions taken by Italian car manufacturers, Rolls-Royce has moved to suspend production. From Monday it'll shut down the manufacturing part of its Goodwood home for two weeks, to then be followed up by the fortnight long Easter maintenance break that was already in the schedule.
Torsten Muller-Otvos, Rolls' CEO, said, "This action has not been taken lightly, but the health and wellbeing of our exceptional workforce is first and foremost in our minds. We are a tight-knit community at the Home of Rolls?Royce and I have no doubt that our resilience will shine through during this extraordinary time."
Non-manufacturing staff are due to remain at work during this time, working at the head office or from home. Rolls-Royce says "social distancing measures" are in place. Otvos concluded his statement with an apology, asking for the understanding of customers at a challenging time. It's hard to imagine him being the only one to do so over the coming weeks.
ORIGINAL STORY, AS REPORTED 16/03/2020:
Two of motoring's most prestigious brands have joined the growing list of manufacturers to close their European production facilities in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. Ferrari’s Maranello and Modena sites have both been shut until at least March 27th, while rival Lamborghini has downed tools at its Sant’Agata Bolognese factory until March 25th. With those re-opening dates just days away, however, it seems likely that the shut-downs might yet continue well into April and possibly beyond.
“At a time like this,” Ferrari CEO, Louis Camilleri, said, “my gratitude goes first and foremost to Ferrari’s women and men who, with their tremendous commitment over the past few days, have demonstrated the passion and dedication that defines our marque. Together with our suppliers, they have ensured the Company’s production. And it is out of our respect for them, for their peace of mind and those of their families that we have decided on this course of action.”
Stefano Domenicali, CEO of Lamborghini struck much the same tone in his statement: “This measure is an act of social responsibility and high sensibility towards our people,” he said, “in the extraordinary situation in which we find ourselves right now in Italy and which is also evolving abroad due to the worldwide spread of Coronavirus. As we have done up until now, we continue to monitor the situation in order to react rapidly and with the right flexibility, in collaboration with our people and in order to restart with energy in the right moment.”
Ferrari will continue to pay workers throughout the period, though it's unclear whether that policy will be matched by its parent company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which has also halted production for several of its marques including Maserati. Seven of its Italian sites are set to remain closed until the 27th, as well as its Serbian Kragujevac and Polish Tychy facilities. Elsewhere in Europe, Ford has chosen to extend a planned three-day break in production at its Valencia manufacturing plant after three workers there tested positive for Covid-19. It will now remain inactive for one week instead.
In the UK, meanwhile, manufacturers could well be impacted by the virus in a very different way. Amid increasing concern about a shortage of vital equipment needed to treat those hardest hit by the coronavirus, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told a Sky News interview that “no number is too high" when it comes to the quantity of ventilators that the government needs to purchase.
With just 5,000 ventilators currently available to the NHS and a leaked Public Health England assessment of the “reasonable worst-case scenario” revealing that up to eight million UK residents could be hospitalised at the height of the pandemic, Hancock declared that “if you produce a ventilator then we will buy it.” To that end, the government has begun the process of reaching out to engineering firms such as Rolls-Royce and JCB to feel out the possibility of them turning their production lines over to the cause. This despite industry experts warning that the transition would not be a straightforward one.
Nonetheless, a Downing Street statement announced that: "Preparing for the spread of the coronavirus outbreak is a national priority and we're calling on the manufacturing industry and all those with relevant expertise who might be able to help to come together to help the country tackle this national crisis." Whatever the case, the impact of the pandemic on the motoring industry both at home and abroad looks to be substantial - and potentially long running.
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