Toyota, Renault and Volkswagen to reopen European plants

Some car factories to resume production after last month’s industry-wide shutdown

Several of the world's top carmakers are reopening plants in Europe after a month-long shutdown following the coronavirus outbreak.

Toyota, Renault, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Volvo are among those that have opened or are preparing to restart production at sites closed last month, though others including Jaguar Land Rover have pushed back earlier plans to fire up their factories.

Every major European and American site was shuttered last month to protect workers and because of falling demand and problems in the industry’s complex supply chains.

Despite a spate of government support schemes paying auto workers during the closures, the virus outbreak has led to a dash for cash across the industry, with Ford and General Motors drawing down credit lines, and Daimler opening a new €12 billion facility to shore up its finances.

Toyota on Tuesday said it plans to resume production at its plant in France from April 22 following a month-long shutdown.

The world's second-largest carmaker also plans to restart operations at its plant in Poland from April 23rd, although production volume at both plants would be reduced initially.

The earliest start date for reopening plants in the UK, Turkey and the Czech Republic is May 4th.

VW's Audi brand began limited production on Tuesday at its engine plant in Gyoer in Hungary, but is yet to reopen its main carmaking facility in the country.

Hyundai has restarted output from its car plant in the Czech Republic, though at less than full capacity.

Volvo Cars plans to reopen its flagship plant in Torslanda in Sweden, which was one of the last European sites to close, next Monday.

Renault's output in Portugal has started, and the French carmaker may open its Romanian site next week.

Contract manufacturer Magna Steyr on Tuesday said it has restarted production of the Mercedes G-Class sport utility vehicle at its site in Austria.

Ferrari, one of the first carmakers to close its sites, last week announced it is laying the groundwork to restart its facility in Maranello, with plans to test all employees for the disease and offer accommodation and healthcare to any who have Covid-19.

The carmaker said it aims to “provide a safe working environment from the resumption of the company’s productive activities”, though did not give a date when the factory will reopen.

However, not all carmakers are pushing for early restarts.

Ford in the US originally planned to open plants this month, but has since postponed its restart date, while Jaguar Land Rover initially planned to reopen its sites in the UK and Slovakia on April 22nd, but last week extended its shutdown indefinitely.

Many of the companies saw demand fall as consumers remained indoors across Europe, and had sufficient stock at dealerships to accommodate the trickle of business that remained. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2020