The outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), which originated in Wuhan, China in end-December 2019, is fast spreading its tentacles across the world and is having a major impact on all aspects of society, including the automotive industry. All through January and February, automakers and their suppliers have been scrambling to keep vehicle assembly lines humming but March has seen the industry take concerted action, in sync with government advisories, to keep its personnel safe.
With the World Health Organisation declaring the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, an unprecedented global disruption is at hand. Automobile and component manufacturing plants are being shuttered around the world, consumer footfalls in showrooms have fallen sharply, vehicle sales are dropping dramatically and almost every major industry event is either being cancelled or going the digital way. All of March has been packed with coronavirus-related news and it all started with the cancellation of the 2020 Geneva Motor Show, which was to open on March 5.
Here is a timeline detailing how COVID-19 has impacted the automotive industry around the world, and in India.
Saturday, April 4
● Hyundai Motor India Foundation, the CSR arm of the carmaker has just announced that it will be making contributions to both the PM CARES Fund as well as the Tamil Nadu CM Public Relief Fund to help in the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic. Hyundai will also join hands with local manufacturer to increase the production of ventilators to meet its growing demand across the country, in addition to the prototype ventilators it has already sumbitted to the Government of Tamil Nadu for consideration. Hyundai will also coordinate with local government bodies to supply dry rations to those in need.
Thursday, April 2
● In an effort to avoid disruption and hardship to motorists in the 21-day lockdown period, the government has provided an extension for the renewal of motor vehicle insurance until April 21, 2020. The Ministry of Finance has announced that policy holders, whose third-party motor vehicle insurance coverage expires between March 25 and April 14, 2020, can now renew their policies until April 21, to ensure continuity of cover from the date on which the policy is due for renewal.
● The Karnataka Police has banned the use of vehicles in the state until April 14 to ensure better compliance with the country-wide shutdown. Any two- or four-wheeler found plying on the roads will be seized and released only after two weeks.
● Skoda Auto Volkswagen India Private Limited will be donating Rs 1 crore to the Sassoon General Hospital in Pune towards establishing a dedicated COVID-19 facility with 1,100 beds. The automaker will also provide 35,000 sanitizers to hospitals in Pune, Aurangabad, and Mumbai, and distribute food packets among the underprivileged in the Aurangabad region. Furthermore, the group is producing reusable face shields at its Chakan factory, which will be a part of personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical workers. The company is also said to be attempting to tap into its global supply chain to organise essential medical supplies for India.
● As part of its Developer Program, MG Motor India has announced a challenge for developing an affordable ventilator. Entries are being accepted until April 15, and they will be scrutinised by a team of medical experts. The best design will be provided a Rs 10 lakh grant, as well as production support at MG’s manufacturing facility in Halol, Gujarat.
Wednesday, April 1
● Mercedes-Benz India will set up a temporary hospital in Pune, with a 1,500-bed isolation ward for COVID-19 patients. The facility currently being used is the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority’s (MHADA) housing area, which is a newly built structure with 374 rooms, in the Mhalunge-Ingale village, Chakan Khed, close to Pune, Maharashtra. The German brand will also support 1,600 daily-wage workers and BPL families from Khed and Viman Nagar areas by providing them with dry ration and cleaning kits.
● Audi India announced an extension for all its customers whose service package or extended warranty ends during the lockdown period (March 15-April 15, 2020). This means those customers will be able to avail the service, the window for which has been extended by one month or 3,000km (whichever comes first), while the window to purchase the extended warranty will be stretched by two months from the last day of the lockdown.
● Rajeev Chaba, President and MD of MG Motor India, announced via social media that he will be contributing one month’s salary towards coronavirus relief aid. He also stated he hopes to do more in the future.
● In light of the coronavirus pandemic, both the Paris and Detroit motor shows have been cancelled. The organisers of the Detroit motor show announced that they will be providing refunds to those who have purchased tickets.
Tuesday, March 31
● The Hero Group has announced that it will contribute Rs 100 Crore as aid for the ongoing COVID-19 relief efforts in India. Half of this sum, Rs 50 Crore, will be contributed to the PM CARES Fund and the remaining Rs 50 crore will be spent in other relief efforts.
● An extension has been issued by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to extend the validity of driving licenses and vehicle registrations expiring between February 1 and June 30, 2020. This has been done in the light of the 21-day nationwide lockdown issued to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
● Isuzu announced that the launch of its BS6-compliant range of vehicles will be pushed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The carmaker will also extend the validity of warranties and services with expiry dates between March 15 and April 15, to May 31, 2020, for existing owners of its vehicles.
● Land Rover deployed over 57 Defender SUVs in order to help the efforts of the British Red Cross in the fight against the coronavirus. The carmaker has also provided a number of its other SUVs to the UK Health Authorities and the Spanish Red Cross.
Monday, March 30
● Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) has announced a series of measures to alleviate the stress of the lockdown on its dealer partners. Called the ‘COVID package’, the scheme is targeted at ensuring liquidity to sustain the business during the lockdown by protecting dealers for approximately 38-75 days by giving cash-flow support. The package includes immediate settlement of any dealer claims, inventory interest subsidy for vehicles in dealer stock and spare parts payment deferment. Besides, TKM is also working with its finance partners for a one-time reduction of inventory funding interest.
● Mahindra & Mahindra has begun the manufacture of a face shield that’s developed from a design sourced from partner Ford Motor Corporation. The face shield fully blocks the face and eyes from accidental contact with liquids. When paired with N95 respirators, it can be a more effective way for medical workers and first responders to limit potential exposure to coronavirus than the respirators alone.
● In light of the ongoing lockdown, Maruti Suzuki has announced an extension to avail the brand’s service and warranty facilities. The free service, warranty and extended warranty programs ending between March 15 and April 30, 2020 will now be valid up to June 30, this year.
● Volkswagen India has also announced relief for customers on the service and warranty front. Standard warranties expiring between March 22 and mid-May will now be valid till July 31, 2020. Owners with standard warranties expiring between March 22 and April 15 will be given the option to purchase an extended warranty that lasts 60 days after the standard warranty ends, while existing extended warranty plans expiring between the same time period will be valid till May 15, 2020. People with a valid service value package that have scheduled maintenance due in March and April can avail the same facilities till July end. Lastly, VW has also given leeway till July 31 to users whose free or paid services are due during the lockdown.
● Japanese utility-vehicle manufacturer Isuzu has announced that it will only introduce its BS6 model range from the second quarter of 2020-21. The automaker is also offering a May 2020 extension for the vehicles whose warranty expires between March 15 and April 15, and for those vehicles that have their periodic maintenance service due in the same time period.
Sunday, March 29
● Yamaha has announced that it will be extending its warranty and other services for its two-wheelers in India. As part of the ‘Yamaha Lifetime Quality Care’ approach, it will extend its services for an additional 60 days (till June 2020) from date of expiry. Free services expiring between March 15 and April 15 will be extended until June. Normal and extended warranties expiring between March 15 and April 15 will be extended till June as well.
Saturday, March 28
● In the US, Ford has begun work on manufacturing ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPEs). The automaker is partnering with GE Healthcare to expand production of a simplified version of the latter’s existing ventilator design. It is collaborating with 3M to bolster the manufacture of its powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) and jointly develop a new design leveraging components from both companies. Ford has also designed a full-face shield, which when paired with N95 respirators, should provide additional protection to healthcare workers. Mahindra is leveraging the design to develop and produce face shields for use in India.
● Tata Trusts has earmarked Rs 500 crore to empower and protect affected communities from the COVID-19 outbreak. Ratan Tata, chairman, Tata Trusts has announced that the organisation is committing the sum for providing personal protective equipment, respiratory systems and testing kits and setting up modular treatment facilities for patients. Additionally, the resources will be used for knowledge sharing and training of healthcare workers as well as the general public.
● Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL) has entered into an agreement with AgVa Healthcare, a medical equipment manufacturer, for producing up to 10,000 ventilators per month. The automaker will leverage its suppliers for producing components and tap into its technical know-how to upgrade systems for production and quality control. It will also aid in arranging financing, to the required extent. The carmaker will provide these services free of cost to AgVa Healthcare.
Moreover, MSIL joint ventures, Bharat Seats Limited and Krishna Maruti Limited have further pledged to manufacture protective clothing and 20 lakh 3-ply masks respectively.
● The TVS Motor Company has announced a Rs 30 crore economic aid package. The money is being funded by the Srinivasan Services Trust (SST), the social division of the TVS Motor Company and Sundaram-Clayton Limited. The funds will be used for providing disinfection services, distributing one million face masks and providing daily meals to police personnel and healthcare and municipal workers. The company is supplying dry rations to daily wage workers in Baddi, Himachal Pradesh as well. TVS is also evaluating the prospect of producing ventilators.
● Contributing towards the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, Hyundai Motor India Foundation, the automaker’s CSR arm, has ordered advanced diagnostic testing kits for COVID-19 from South Korea. The organisation states that the kits will have a very high level of accuracy and will be capable of testing 25,000 people. The procured kits will be distributed tomorrow to hospitals after consultation with the central and state governments. Commenting on the initiative, S S Kim, MD and CEO, Hyundai Motor India, said, “We will continue to monitor the situation closely and support the Indian Government with multi-layered CSR initiatives to bring back normalcy at the earliest.”
Friday, March 27
● The Supreme Court has granted a conditional extension of the BS4 deadline
. Dealers across the country, except those in Delhi-NCR, will be allowed to sell 10 percent of their BS4 stocks for up to 10 days after the nationwide lockdown ends. The ruling comes in response to the Federation of Automobile Dealers Association’s (FADA) plea, in light of the dealer community not being able to clear BS4 inventory till March 31, due to the lockdown.
● The Bajaj Group has announced a Rs 100 crore COVID-19 pandemic relief package that aims to upgrade healthcare facilities as well as support initiatives to provide food and shelter to those in need. In addition, the company will also help those affected in rural areas by means of a special economic aid programme.
● Ride hailing company Ola has launched the ‘Drive the Driver Fund’ under its social welfare arm, Ola Foundation. The fund will provide aid to autorickshaw, cab, kaali-peeli and taxi drivers in the form of medical and emergency support and essential supplies. The Ola group and its employees will contribute Rs 20 crores towards the fund and Bhavish Aggarwal, co-founder and CEO, Ola, will also pitch in by foregoing a year’s salary. Additionally, the company has also launched a crowdfunding campaign to further raise up to Rs 50 crore towards the fund.
The mobility solutions provider had earlier revealed other initiatives to relieve the stress of the coronavirus pandemic. It had announced a special COVID-19 insurance cover for driver partners and their spouses. The company had also waived lease rentals for driver partners operating vehicles under its subsidiary, Ola Fleet Technologies.
● The Goodwood Festival of Speed has been postponed due to the current coronavirus crisis. The Festival of Speed is one of the largest motoring events in the UK, and the 2020 edition was scheduled to be held between July 9-12, 2020. The event is now supposed to take place sometime in late summer-early autumn (August-September). The organisers have also clarified that the tickets that have already been purchased will stay valid for the postponed festival.
Thursday, March 26
● As expected, the 2020 MotoGP season has been hit with yet another delay. The 2020 Spanish Grand Prix, which was supposed to take place on May 3, 2020, has now been postponed as a result of the escalating COVID-19 outbreak in Europe. A statement released by the FIM says, “as the situation remains in a state of constant evolution, a new date for the Spanish GP cannot be confirmed until it becomes clearer when exactly it will be possible to hold the event. A revised calendar will be published as soon as available.”
Wednesday, March 25
● In an attempt to aid authorities in battling the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, MG Motor India has pledged to donate Rs 2 crore to government hospitals and health institutions in Gurugram, Haryana, and Halol in Gujarat. While the carmaker is headquartered in the former city, it has 80,000-unit capacity manufacturing plant in the latter. Half of the promised donation is being earmarked from the company’s coffers, and the rest is being pledged by the employees. Contributions will include essentials like gloves, masks, ventilators, medicines and beds, depending on the requirements of the medical institutions.
Tuesday, March 24
● Classic Legends Private Limited, makers of the Jawa motorcycles – Jawa and Forty Two, has announced that deliveries of the bikes will be delayed, due to production constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Parts like the LCD panel for the instrument cluster were sourced from Chinese vendors.
● Indian electric two-wheeler manufacturer Okinawa has put all its manufacturing operations on hold until further notice, as safety measure to tide over the COVID-19 breakout.
● Mazda is suspending production for 13 days and operate daytime shifts only for eight days at its Hiroshima and Hofu plants in Japan, starting from March 28, through to April 30. For its overseas plants, Mazda de Mexico Vehicle Operation, the production site in Mexico, will shut down for approximately 10 days starting from March 25, and AutoAlliance (Thailand) will suspend production for a similar period, starting from March 30.
● Aston Martin has suspended all manufacturing operations at its UK plants till April 20.
● General Motors announced that it suspended operations at its Talegaon plant since March 21 in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak in India.
Asif Khatri, vice president of Manufacturing, GM India, stated, “The safety and wellbeing of our employees is the utmost priority. These steps are necessary in the fight against the spread of Covid-19. We stand in solidarity with the Government of Maharashtra’s initiatives to stop the spread of this pandemic.”
The facility is currently used to manufacture models for exports, with GM having stopped sales in the domestic market in 2017. The plant is set to see a change in ownership later this year as a part of Chinese manufacturer Great Wall Motor's foray into the Indian automotive market.
● After announcing a halt in production at its India facilities just a day before, Nissan has revealed it will be adopting a similar course of action at other global sites due to the coronavirus pandemic. Production will be suspended at its Rosslyn plant in Pretoria, South Africa from March 26 until further notice. Nissan's facilities in 6th of October City, Giza, Egypt will also suspend operations from March 26, for an initial period of two weeks.
● Toyota Kirloskar Motor temporarily shut down its production plant in Bidadi, Karnataka on Sunday, March 22. In light of the recent directions given by the Government of Karnataka, the plant will continue to remain shut until further notice. TKM has extended the ‘Work From Home’ policy to all its employees at its corporate office in Bidadi, along with its regional SBUs (Strategic Business Units) in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru.
Monday, March 23
● Acknowledging their customers’ inability to visit authorised workshops for service, maintenance and repairs, Tata Motors has conveyed that it will be extending the time for availing the stipulated facilities. Owners whose vehicles have an OE warranty and free service period (not kilometres) expiry date that’s between March 15 and May 31, 2020, can use these benefits until July 31.
● The Azerbaijan GP has joined the long list of Formula 1 races that have been postponed. Formula 1 was hoping to get its 2020 season underway at the Baku street circuit on June 7. However, race organisers have now confirmed their decision to postpone the event “as a direct result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic”. The Canadian GP (June 14) is next up on the calendar. But there is a high likelihood that the race could be called off in the coming days, with Canada imposing tight restrictions. The country has already become the first to withdraw from the 2020 Olympic Games, which, thus far, is due to start in July.
● Kia Motors India has announced that, with immediate effect, it will be temporarily shutting down all operations, till further notice. This include Kia’s offices and manufacturing facility in Anantapur (Andhra Pradesh). Kia’s digital channels will, however, remain open for customers.
● Renault India and Nissan India have announced the temporary suspension of all operations at its Alliance manufacturing facility in Chennai, till further notice. However, the Renaults’s 24x7 Road Side Assistance (RSA) service will still be operational.
● Yamaha has announced that it is taking the preventive measure of suspending its manufacturing operations at its plants in Chennai, Surajpur and Faridabad until March 31, 2020.
Operations at the Surajpur plant in Uttar Pradesh and Faridabad plant in Haryana have been suspended from March 23, whereas the operations at the Chennai plant will be suspended from March 24. Yamaha has also said that it has been taking all precautionary measures such as increased frequency of sanitization at factory premises and work stations, restrictions in travel, and creating awareness among the employees in the current scenario.
Yamaha has launched multiple BS6 models that have begun reaching dealerships across the country, which means they will have bikes to sell after April 1 deadline.
● The suspension of manufacturing and assembly lines isn’t the only thing that has come to a halt due to COVID-19. The updated Triumph Street Triple RS’s launch in India, set to take place via a digital event on March 25, has been postponed it to a later date owing to the outbreak.
The 2020 Street Triple RS features an updated 765cc, liquid-cooled, in-line triple engine that produces 123hp and 79Nm of torque, and it looks like the wait to get our hands on it or the prices has gotten longer. Triumph has revealed that details of the reschedule launch will be shared on March 31.
● TVS Motor Company has decided to halt all manufacturing operations at its plants in India and Indonesia till further notice. This includes manufacturing facilities and offices in India and globally till further notice.
● Benelli's manufacturing and assembly plant in Hyderabad will remain closed till March 31, on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. The factory in the outskirts of Hyderabad is currently Benelli's only such facility in the country, and the manufacturer’s entire line-up is put together here. At the moment, Benelli has not launched any of its BS6-compliant models in India, and the shutdown of its facility might see a delay in the same.
Sunday, March 22
● Mahindra Group chairman, Anand Mahindra, has revealed over Twitter that that the company is contemplating the manufacture of ventilators at its production facilities and converting its Mahindra Holidays resorts into temporary care facilities for COVID-19 patients. Other automakers across the globe are also being approached for the manufacture of life-saving medical equipment. You can read more about it here.
● Suzuki Motorcycles India Pvt Ltd has suspended production at its Kherki Dhaula, Gurgaon plant in accordance with the directives issued by the Haryana Government. The two-wheeler manufacturer has said that that production will remain suspended till further notice issued work from home advisory to its employees.
● Toyota Kirloskar Motor has temporarily halted production at its plant in Bidadi, Karnataka along with saying that it has laid out work from home directives to its employees working in the company’s regional offices. The carmaker has not revealed a proposed date of re-commencing production.
● Hyundai Motor India has announced the suspension of production at its Chennai plant with effect from March 23, 2020 till further notice. The carmaker has said that the plant will resume operation based on further notifications from the Karnataka Government.
● Honda Cars India has announced that it will be suspending production at its Greater Noida and Tapukara plants with effect from March 23, 2020. The carmaker has said that it will be looking to resume operations from April 1 subject to advice from government and health authorities and market conditions.
The carmaker has also said that it has asked its office staff to work for home with only employees engaged in essential services requiring to be physically present.
● Maruti Suzuki has announced that it is temporarily shutting operations at its production facilities in Haryana – Gurugram and Manesar – along with saying that it’s Research and Development centre in Rohtak will remain closed. The carmaker has that the shutdown is in accordance with the government policy and its extent will depend on future policy announcements.
● Mahindra and Mahindra has announced the temporary suspension of manufacturing operations at its Nagpur, Chakan and Kandivali plants till March 31, 2020. Operations at the Nagpur plant have been suspended with immediate effect, with the Chakan and Kandivali plants to suspend manufacturing operations from Monday night, March 23.
The carmaker has said that it is continuing to monitor the situation and will take appropriate action on other plants across the country. The carmaker had previously announced work-from-home measures for its offices, earlier in the week.
● Hero MotoCorp has announced that it is suspending production at all its facilities across the globe and at its Global Parts Centre in Rajasthan with immediate effect, till March 31, 2020. The company, though, has said that its other functions, including its Centre of Innovation and Technology, will continue to function on a work-from-home policy, except for employees whose physical presence is required to run essential day-to-day services.
● Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has announced the suspension of production and temporary closure of its plant at Ranjangaon, Maharashtra, with immediate effect, citing the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the state. The manufacturer has said that the suspension will be in effect till March 31, 2020, with only employees engaged in emergency services continuing to staff the facility.
The carmaker has said that it will be undertaking a cleaning and sanitation drive, including fumigation, at its facility during the temporary closure. FCA has also iterated that the closure will result in no job losses and that all employees will continue to receive pay during the period of closure.
Saturday, 21 March
● Harley-Davidson shut its factory in the US after one of the employees tested positive for the Coronavirus. Harley-Davidson has said the factories will remain closed until March 29th, in order to help “support employee health and further bolster coronavirus containment efforts.”
● In the interest of safety for its employees, Tata Motors has announced that it is rapidly scaling down activities at its Pune facility to skeletal operations by the end of Monday, 23rd March. The carmaker will be ready for plant closure by end of Tuesday, 24th March if the situation warrants and remain in this mode till 31st March and review it in due course.
Friday, 20 March
● The 2020 edition of the Monaco GP has been called off entirely in the wake of the escalating novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. This means that the Monaco GP won’t be held for the first time in 66 years. Formula 1 has also announced the postponement of the Dutch and Spanish GPs.
● Bugatti has suspended production at its plant in Molsheim, France. In a statement, the hypercar manufacturer said necessary regulations implemented by European governments to combat the COVID-19 pandemic make it impossible, amongst other things, to maintain the supply chain of production and spare parts. In addition, it is almost impossible to deliver vehicles completed in the Atelier to their owners due to the travel restrictions.
● Hyundai India has announced a series of measures as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the country. Adding that it has advised its employees to work remotely, the company has set up preventive thermal screening for its employees, and has asked dealer and vendor partners to strictly follow government advisories. Hyundai will also offer a 2-month extension to customers who are unable to avail their vehicle’s warranty / extended warranty / free service due to a health emergency or dealership shutdown in affected cities. The company will also continue to offer 24x7 Roadside Assistance, and has deployed an additional 1,000+ Doorstep Advantage bikes and emergency road service cars.
● Apollo Tyres’ top management has announced a voluntary reduction in pay due to the impact of COVID-19 on the automotive industry. Company Chairman and MD Onkar S Kanwar and Vice Chairman & MD Neeraj Kanwar have accepted a 25 per cent reduction in their salary. Furthermore, other senior executives have also taken a voluntary 15 per cent reduction in their salary in a show of solidarity due to the rapidly deteriorating market conditions.
● Toyota Kirloskar Motor's regional Strategic Business Units in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore to operate with temporary reduced headcount [50%]. The selection of such 50 percent staff would be done in such a way that there is minimal business impact and also to minimise the risk of staff health. The balance 50 percent of the staff will work from home.
Thursday, 19 March
● In consultation with Volkswagen Group and the KOVO union, Skoda Auto suspended production at its Czech plants in Mladá Boleslav, Kvasiny and Vrchlabí at 10pm on March 19, for an initial period of minimum two weeks. The company says, the factories are being shut down in an orderly manner in close alignment with the supply chain to ensure a smooth process. As things stand, operations are scheduled to re-commence on April 6. Meanwhile, production of Skoda models has resumed at the Chinese plants. In India and Russia, manufacturing is continuing according to plan.
● Honda has suspended production at its UK plant, where the Civic hatch is built, "in light of increasing difficulties with supply chains and considering the wellbeing" or staff. The firm says it intends to restart production on 6 April, dependent on government advice and market conditions.
● The Driving Vehicle Standards Agency has postponed all driving tests in the UK due to take place today and tomorrow. In Northern Ireland, driving tests have been suspended for three months.
● Both Ford and GM will suspend production at their North American factories until at least 30 March. The two firms say they will take the time to clean and sanitise their plants in the USA, Canada and Mexico, and both are in talks with unions about keeping workers safe when production resumes. Audi has also suspended production in its Mexico plant due to supply chain issues.
● Hyundai has suspended production at its US factory in Alabama after a worker tested positive for Covid-19. The firm is working with local officials to sanitise the site and determining when it it safe for production to resume.
Wednesday, March 18
● The motorsport calendar faces another hit in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with the 2020 Isle of Man TT now cancelled. The event was scheduled to take place between May 30 and June 13, 2020, and preparations for the event were already underway. However, the outbreak and severity of the situation in the United Kingdom has led organisers to call off the event. This is the first time since 2001 that the iconic motorcycle racing event has been cancelled.
Volkswagen India chooses to launch its second SUV of 2020 – the T-Roc – digitally, sticking to the formula of social distancing. The T-Roc's online launch comes just about two weeks after the German carmaker launched its BS6-compliant Tiguan Allspace in Mumbai on March 6.
● Hero MotoCorp, India's largest two-wheeler OEM, sets up a task force to respond to the Coronavirus outbreak. Employees have been told to work from home every alternate day, and non-essential travel and physical meetings have been discontinued. The company says it is well prepared with a contingency plan.
● The Le Mans 24 Hours has been moved back from its planned 13/14 June date until 19/20 September. The organisers say the delay will involve rescheduling several of rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The world's most prestigious endurance race was first held in May 1923, but has since been run in June, with two exceptions. In 1956, the event was held in July, while in 1968 civil unrest in France caused the event to be delayed until September. The race has been cancelled 10 times: in 1936 due to a labour strike, and between 1940 and 1948 due to World War Two.
● Rolls-Royce has confirmed it will suspend production at its Goodwood manufacturing plant from Monday, March 23. The suspension is currently planned for two weeks, and leads into the already scheduled two-week Easter maintenance shutdown. It added that day-to-day operations will be assured by non-production staff at the company's head office, or working remotely.
Company boss Torsten Müller-Ötvös said: “This action has not been taken lightly, but the health and well-being 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."
● Porsche has announced that it will stop production for an initial period of two weeks. The decision will affect its Zuffenhausen and Leipzig plants in Germany, with the suspension starting from Saturday, March 21. The firm cited the protection of its personnel due to coronavirus, but added that bottlenecks in its supply chain no longer enabled "orderly production". The firm also said it is anticipating a decline in demand.
● Toyota is suspending production at all of its European plants, including its two UK facilities in Burnaston, Derbyshire and Deeside, Flintshire.
● The BMW Group is also in the process of halting production at all of its European factories, along with its site in South Africa. They will all be closed by the end of the week, and is currently scheduled to last until April 19.
● Honda will suspend production at all of its North American plants for six days from 23 March, due to an "anticipated decline in market demand". It said it will continue to pay staff fully during the suspension, and will also utilise the period to enhance deep cleaning measures. The move will affect plants in the USA, Canada and Mexico.
● The Tesla factory in Fremont, California is set to be forced to close, with officials in Alameda County having reportedly determined it is a "non-essential" business. The plant was originally set to stay open despite a "stay at home" order in the county, but county spokesperson Sargeant Ray Kelly told The Mercury News: "If Tesla was a hospital, if Tesla was a laundromat, if Tesla was a mechanic shop, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But Tesla makes cars, and that’s not essential for us to get through this health crisis.”
Tuesday, March 17
● Pierer Mobility – parent company of KTM, Husqvarna and GasGas – announced the implementation of a two-week company vacation at its Mattighofen plant in Austria from March 30 to April 10. This due to an interruption of components supply due to the complete shutdown in northern Italy. Deliveries of KTM and Husqvarna in India will be affected as some components are sourced from that region, including Italy.
● Ducati has announced that it has extended the shutdown of its production lines in Borgo Panigale to March 25 because of the recent coronavirus outbreak. The original deadline was March 18 but was extended as the pandemic spread across Italy. Ducati also said that all activities relating to new product development and market support are ongoing in compliance with the rules of conduct against the spread of the virus.
● Mahindra & Mahindra announced a ‘work from home’ (WFH) policy, from March 18-31, for 7,000 desk-based staffers. However, the company's manufacturing and R&D operations will continue functioning.
● FCA India, which retails the Jeep brand of SUVs, says it "has permitted over 50% of its staff in its Mumbai and Pune offices to work from home, at least until March 31, 2020, and is taking proactive measures to ensure ‘social distancing’, which is the need of the hour."
● FCA, which operates from three locations in India – Corporate Office in Mumbai, an Engineering office in Pune and the main Engineering Centre in Chennai – says it has prioritised the option of ‘work from home’ (WFH) for its staff in Maharashtra based on precautionary advisories by the government of India and also the State Governments. The WFH alternative for the mission-critical engineering workforce in Chennai is under consideration and not in play as yet.
● Volvo Car India announced a 'work from home' strategy as a safety measure with immediate effect. As part of its overall health and safety plan to mitigate risks associated with Covid-19, the company said the "the necessary IT infrastructure is in place to facilitate business continuity, with scheduled meetings managed via Microsoft Teams/ Skype."
● Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations (FADA) approaches the Supreme Court to extend the cut-off for sales of BS-IV vehicles to May 31 as retail sales have nosedived due to the impact of Coronavirus. According to FADA president Ashish Kale, "In the past week, there has been a drastic drop in sales and customer walk-ins have reduced to a trickle as caution sets in due to fear of spreading of the virus. Counter sales have fallen by 60-70% across auto dealerships. The situation has worsened in the past 3-4 days with partial lockdown situation in many towns and cities and few district magistrates have started issuing notices of closure of shops and establishments including auto dealerships to stop the spread of virus. Many of our members may face dealership closures if leftover with unsold BS-IV stocks."
● Ford will suspend production at its factories in continental Europe from Thursday 19 March. The decision, which the firm expects "will continue for a number of weeks" will affect two plants in Germany and one in Romania. The firm has already suspended production at its Valencia factory after three workers were confirmed with coronavirus. The firm's two UK engine plants are not affected. The firm added that while dealerships in some countries have temporarily closed their sales operations, its dealers are committed to "provide essential maintenance and service across the continent."
● The Volkswagen Group is shutting down most of its factories in Europe, with boss Herbert Diess saying that it's “almost impossible” to forecast the company's 2020 financial performance.
● Volkswagen India's plant in Chakan, near Pune, is not facing any major production disruption yet because it's already on a 3-week production shutdown, starting Monday, March 16. The company says this shutdown is to prepare the production lines for the new set of models based on the new MQB A0 IN platform that will drive the global major's 'India 2.0' strategy in the marketplace.
Though there could have been a potentially serious impact in production due to disruption in supplies from the virus outbreak affected automotive hubs outside of China. Volkswagen started production of BS VI cars in February as planned, though there would be a delay in the production of vehicles with automatic transmissions sourced from Japan. The delay could be a "maximum" of two to three months. "It (production shutdown timing) fits pretty well in the current environment. We are also supporting people to stay at home. So far, we have managed to work around it," said Steffen Knapp, director, Volkswagen Passenger Cars India.
However, the company has had to shut its 120,000 square feet spare parts warehouse in Gurgaon, one of three in the country, after the local administration issued an advisory to shut down operations of offices and industrial units in order to contain the virus outbreak. Vehicle sales are also affected as some states have advised dealerships to suspend operations in the wake of the virus outbreak. While monitoring the constantly developing situation closely, Volkswagen, and other industry peers would also brace themselves for some challenging times. "The customers have something else in their mind if it’s getting to their health, so they may not think of purchasing vehicles," said Knapp.
● The Tesla factory in Fremont, California, US is remaining open, despite a "shelter in place" lockdown being issued for the area in which it's located. The plant, where the Model 3 is produced, has been deemed an essential business by Alameda County. According to the Los Angeles Times, Tesla boss Elon Musk has emailed the plant's 10,000 workers saying they can stay at home if they feel unwell or uncomfortable.
Monday, March 16
● Organisers of the 2020 South India Rally, which was supposed to be held on March 20-22, 2020, have confirmed that the event has now been postponed after considering the rising number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in India. The rally – which is supposed to double as the inaugural round of the 2020 Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) and the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) – will now be held on June 19-21, 2020.
● The UK government is in talks with major automotive manufacturers, including Ford and Honda, about producing ventilators for the NHS in their UK production facilities. The idea has precedent: in China, the car industry is already helping to battle the spread of coronavirus. Chinese car maker BYD has created production lines at its Shenzen facility to produce face-masks and disinfectants. It says that it's producing 300,000 bottles of disinfectant and five million masks per day, making it the world's largest producer of the latter product.
● The PSA Group will stage phased closures of all of its factories across Europe, including the Vauxhall plants at Ellesmere Port and Luton.
● Ford has closed its factory in Valencia, Spain after three workers tested positive for Covid-19. In a statement, Ford said: “We have had three positive cases for Covid-19 on the Valencia site in a 24-hour period, two of which involved more isolated workers that did not enter the assembly operations. We are taking quick action to follow the established protocol, including the identification and self-isolation of all employees who had close contact with the affected workers. We will take all other appropriate steps to ensure that risk from this situation is minimised.”
● Ford India said it is continuing to act in real-time to keep its "people safe and help limit the spread of the virus in communities where we live and work. Therefore, starting Monday March 16, we have instructed much of our India workforce (over 10,000 people) including Ford India and Global Business Services – except those in business-critical roles that cannot be done away from Ford facilities – to work remotely until further notice."
A PTI report has it that the Ford India spokesperson added, "All necessary safety measures have been deployed at Ford locations as well as our dealerships to ensure minimum inconvenience to customers."
Sunday, March 15
● Tata Motors' PR releases an 'internal memo' written by CEO and Managing Director Guenter Butschek. It reveals that the company has in place a three-tiered response plan to reduce the risk of coronavirus to its employees.
● Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is closing the majority of its European plants until March 27, including six in Italy and those in Serbia and Poland. Ferrari will also close its Maranello factory, while Italian brake manufacturer Brembo is also shutting down.
● The World Rally Championship event in Mexico was halted early so that the competing teams would have extra time to get home, given the increase in travel restrictions. The next event, Rally Argentina, has been postponed.
Friday, March 13
● Daimler postpones Annual Shareholders’ Meeting: An email to the media states that "After weighing all aspects, especially the health of all participants and after the order of the responsible health department, Daimler AG has decided not to hold the company’s Annual Shareholders’ Meeting as scheduled on April 1, 2020, but to postpone it to a later date in 2020."
Thursday, March 12
● The Australian Grand Prix was cancelled by Formula 1 bosses just hours before practice was due to begin on Friday, following McLaren's withdrawal from the race due to one of its team members testing positive for coronavirus.
The decision by Formula 1 and the FIA, motorsport's governing body, was announced on Friday morning in Australia, with fans already queuing for admission to the street circuit in Albert Park, Melbourne. It was made after discussions between F1 bosses, the FIA, Australian Grand Prix organisers and the 10 teams over whether the event should proceed.
A statement from Formula 1 and the FIA said, "This is very disappointing news for the thousands of fans due to attend the race and all ticket holders will receive a full refund and a further announcement will be communicated in due course."
● Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) has announced that in light of the current outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the fight against the pandemic, it has taken preventive measures to safeguard the health and safety of all stakeholders including customers, employees, and dealer partners. The OEM says it has been closely monitoring the evolving situation and responding appropriately in accordance with guidance issued by the government.
Wednesday, March 11
● The New York International Auto Show, originally slated to happen in April 2020, has been pushed back due to coronavirus concerns. The motor show will now be organised from August 28 to September 6, 2020. This ensures enough breathing space from the Detroit motor show which, this year, will run in June for the first time, having previously been held in January.
● The Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) has now confirmed that MotoGP’s upcoming round in Austin, USA has been postponed and will instead be held on November 13-15. Meanwhile, the Thai GP has been pushed to October 4. Formula E organisers have also suspended the series’ 2019/20 season for a two-month period. This means that the races in Paris, Seoul and Jakarta have also been postponed until further notice.
Monday, March 2
● Travel restrictions put into place as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak have forced the cancellation of all MotoGP class sessions at what was supposed to be the series’ 2020 season opener – the Qatar Grand Prix. All activities in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes, as well as in the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup, carried on as planned, since all the teams and riders were already in Qatar for the three-day official test at the Losail International Circuit.
Friday, February 28
● Five days before the 2020 Geneva Motor Show – billed as the biggest show on the global automotive calendar – was due to open to journalists on Tuesday, March 3, the organiser International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA) cancelled the event. This was after several confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Geneva and other parts of Switzerland came to light. At the time, there was a substantial outbreak of the coronavirus, in northern Italy, with cases announced in a number of other European countries.
Over 25,000 auto execs working from home in India
It is estimated that over 25,000 executives working at India Auto Inc are currently working from home to contain the spread of Covid-19 contagion.
According to Animesh Kumar, Director of Automotive Consulting at GlobalData, a leading research and consulting company, “Most of these employees are from key original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), including Ford, Tata Motors, Mahindra, Volkswagen, FCA, Renault, Volvo and MG Motor. While factory workers will continue to operate in plants, it will not be ‘business as usual’. OEMs are trying their best to give safe working environment to factory workers and other employees in key operational roles in order to ensure that supply chain does not get ‘further’ impacted. Automakers, including Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai Motors India, Toyota Kirloskar Motors and Tata Motors have put in place several measures such as thermal screening, business travel restrictions, maintaining physical distance and suspension of biometric attendance systems, to prevent the exposure of their workforce."
“These steps have been warranted by the sudden spike in the confirmed Covid-19 cases globally and in India. Though the confirmed cases to the overall population ratio indicates that India has so far managed to control the outbreak better than most of the countries, there are concerns regarding undetected cases. Moreover, in India, the highest number of cases has been reported in Maharashtra, a state which is a major automotive hub.
“The automotive supply chain in India has been impacted due to the disruption in availability of auto components and the impact is being felt across all segments -- passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles, two- and three-wheelers, and electric vehicles. A large portion of the components imported from China are sold in aftermarket and it would impact the aftermarket segment as well as the repairs and maintenance markets."
Inputs on overseas automakers from Autocar UK