Coronavirus: VW prepares to close factories due to spread of infection

The world’s largest car manufacturer is preparing to close its factories as it seeks to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Volkswagen warned that it expected 2020 to be a difficult year, as it announced production would temporarily cease at plants in Spain, Portugal, Slovakia and Italy before the end of this week.

Most of the company’s other factories will begin preparing to suspend production, probably for two or three weeks, VW said.

Chief executive Herbert Diess added: “Given the present significant deterioration in the sales situation and the heightened uncertainty regarding parts supplies to our plants, production is to be suspended in the near future at factories operated by group brands.”

Meanwhile, as the virus comes under control in China, VW has reopened most of its factories there.

Chief financial officer Frank Witter said: “2020 will be a very difficult year.

“The corona pandemic presents us with unknown operational and financial challenges. At the same time, there are concerns about sustained economic impacts.”

The German car maker owns the Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Ducati, Lamborghini, Porsche, Seat and Skoda brands

It comes after reports that Britain had asked manufacturers including Honda and Ford to help make health equipment such as ventilators.

Also on Monday, rival PSA, which owns brands including Peugeot and Citroen, announced it was closing its factories in Europe until 27 March “due to the acceleration observed in recent days of serious cases of COVID-19“.

The executive board chairman and PSA’s crisis unit members said they would stagger the closure beginning this week in Madrid, and France’s Mulhouse, and following in the coming days with factories across France, Spain, Germany, Britain, Slovakia, Portugal and Poland.

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