Japan automakers to halt North American plants as coronavirus spreads

Japanese automakers Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. announced separately Wednesday that they would suspend operations at their plants in North America due to the spread of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Toyota will halt operations at all of its vehicle assembly plants and auto parts factories in the United States, Canada and Mexico for two days from Monday.

The leading Japanese automaker will brace itself for a fall in demand caused by the spreading virus, which originated in China, and will boost efforts to ensure that its employees stay healthy.

During the suspension period, Toyota plans to disinfect the facilities and equipment at the plants. It hopes to resume operations at the factories on Wednesday.

Toyota will also gradually suspend operations at vehicle and parts factories in another four countries in Europe from Wednesday, expanding the output halts to six nations in the region, the automaker said.

Operations would cease at auto and parts factories in the U.K. and Poland for an indeterminate period from Wednesday, Toyota said. Output at vehicle plants in the Czech Republic and Turkey are set to be halted from Thursday and Saturday, respectively.

The stoppages, decided after governments called on people to remain at home due to the virus, follow output suspensions at the company’s vehicle plants in France and Portugal.

The world’s second-largest automaker by sales said production would resume depending on the spread of the virus in each country.

Honda will halt production at all of its four-wheel vehicle plants in the three North American countries for six operating days until March 30.

The firm said in a statement that it would “adjust production at all of its automobile production plants in North America, including the U.S., Canada and Mexico, due to an anticipated decline in market demand related to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to the automaker, the suspension, which will be carried out from Monday in hope of coping with a decline in demand, will lead to a production cut of some 40,000 units.

Operations at Honda’s auto parts plants in North America supplying the four-wheel vehicle factories with transmissions and engines will also be stopped during the six day period.

Honda will continue to pay some 27,600 workers at the plants during the shutdown, it said.

“As the market impact of the fast-changing COVID-19 situation evolves, Honda will continue to evaluate conditions and make additional adjustments as necessary,” the firm said in a statement.

Nissan said it would suspend operations at its factories in the United States from Friday until April 6. The automaker said the move was part of its virus containment efforts.

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a big impact on the automotive manufacturing industry, the head of a Japanese lobby group said on Thursday, adding that its members would need to keep adjusting production amid a projected slump in demand.

“The truth is, it was shocking just how much the world could change in an instant,” said Akio Toyoda, who also leads Toyota Motor Corp., at a news conference in Tokyo.

“At this point, we can’t foresee what’s ahead for automakers,” added Toyoda, the chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

Despite the uncertainty, Toyoda said he did not expect the virus to impact spending on research into advanced technologies, such as autonomous driving and electric cars.

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