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Auto biggies halt production in India as pandemic rages on


A scene from Auto Expo 2020 at Greater Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi in February. (Photo: Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images)
A scene from Auto Expo 2020 at Greater Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi in February. (Photo: Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images)

INDIA’s leading automaker Maruti Suzuki and peers Hyundai, Mahindra & Mahindra, Fiat Chrysler, Ford and Toyota said they will halt car production due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The move comes after automakers shut plants last week in Europe, the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Sport-utility vehicle maker Mahindra & Mahindra said it aims to start making ventilators for coronavirus patients, mirroring efforts by automakers including Ferrari and Fiat.

India has reported 415 cases of the coronavirus but health experts have warned that a big jump could be imminent. The government will halt domestic flights from Tuesday and suspend most train and metro services nationwide.

Maruti, which builds one in every two cars sold in India, said it would halt production and office operations immediately at its facilities in the northern state of Haryana.

“The duration of this shutdown will depend upon government policy,” Maruti, which is majority owned by Japan’s Suzuki Motor Corp, said in a statement.

The western state of Maharashtra is home to one of India‘s biggest auto hubs at Pune, where several car makers are set to halt production.

Mahindra has stopped manufacturing at one of its plants in Maharashtra and will suspend work at two others from Monday, it said.

Anand Mahindra, group company chairman, said on Twitter that the company would begin work immediately on how it can make ventilators.

“A lockdown over the next few weeks will help flatten the curve and moderate the peak pressure on medical care,” Mahindra said, adding that it will offer its holiday resorts as temporary care facilities and help the government in building such centres.

Ford is suspending vehicle and engine production at its manufacturing sites in India, Vietnam, South Africa and Thailand starting March 21.

The shutdown “will continue for several weeks depending on the pandemic situation, national restrictions, supplier constraints and dealer stock requirements,” it said in a statement on Monday.

Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and Fiat as well as bike maker Bajaj Auto all said they will halt production at their Pune plants. Fiat said it will not cut jobs and will continue to pay salaries of all its employees.

India‘s top-selling bike maker Hero MotoCorp Ltd and rival TVS Motor have stopped manufacturing at all its plants in India and globally. Yamaha Motor Co has also halted production in India.

Volkswagen AG’s India unit said on Sunday it had stopped production in Pune for three weeks.

(Reuters)