SA automakers still in full swing while Europe shuts down most car plants due to coronavirus

Image: Quickpic
Image: Quickpic

The South African automotive industry has implemented several safety protocols due to the coronavirus pandemic, but for now it's still business as usual locally.

European governments have imposed measures to keep people at home to stem the spread of the virus, following this, carmakers have begun shutting down factories, AFP has reported.

Italian-American automaker Fiat Chrysler has halted production at six plants in Italy and one each in Serbia, and Poland until March 27.

France's PSA Group, whose brands include Peugeot, Citroen and Opel, has said it too will shut its European production sites starting this week.

Fiat Chrysler temporarily shuts eight plants across Europe due to coronavirus

Volkswagen's finance chief Frank Witter said it was "uncertain how severely or for how long" the pandemic upheaval will affect the company, according to AFP.

"Currently, it is almost impossible to make a reliable forecast," he said. "We are making full use of all measures in task force mode to support our employees and their families and to stabilise our business.

So what are South African automakers doing?

Wheels24 has approached several local automakers with factories in South Africa. Ford Motor Company and Toyota South Africa have reported it is still business as usual, along with Nissan SA, Isuzu, and Volkswagen SA, although the situation is being monitored. 

Isuzu SA says: "We have implemented the appropriate plans to deal with any potential infections and have also rolled out an education campaign aimed at encouraging employees to take the appropriate prevention measures. As an additional precautionary measure, we have imposed a prohibition on international and domestic travel and will continue to adjust our plans, in line with the changing environment.

"To date we have not been impacted by any disruptions and have sufficient components to ensure continued production of our vehicles. Also, there have been no reported incidents of  infections among any of our internal or external stakeholders.

"We are continuously monitoring the situation and will continue to take proactive steps which are in the best interests of our employees and stakeholders."

Volkswagen South Africa says: "The VW plant in Uitenhage is operating as normal but we are closely monitoring the impact of Covid-19 outbreak on our supply chain and business." 

Ford Ranger silverton plant

                                       Image: Quickpic

Nissan SA says: "Nissan South Africa (NSA) continues to monitor the evolving COVID-19 issue and impact on our employees, supply chain and customers. The safety of our employees and their families is our utmost priority. Nissan is following the procedural guidance of the South African government, World Health Organisation and Nissan Headquarters. The manufacturing of vehicles will continue at NSA, while we closely monitor the situation to prioritize safety and well-being."

The Chief Executive Officers of major Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs); together with a senior representative of Independent Vehicles Importers; and executive committee members of vehicle components manufactures, met on Tuesday (March 17) to discuss the automotive industry’s collective response to COVID-19 and to consider the impact of some of the measures announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday evening.    

The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) has released a statement and said: "In order to reduce the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus, the industry has decided to implement a number of measures to some of the industry’s standard operating procedures effective immediately." 

Here's what the association has imposed in the local automotive industry:

Gatherings of more than 100 people in the workplace

- All gatherings and meetings in auditoriums and other venues, where more than 100 people will attend, will be cancelled
- All plant tours at vehicle manufacturing plants have been cancelled 
- Visitors, suppliers, customers, key stakeholders and members of the public will be expected to sign a Visitor Declaration Form when entering manufacturing plants or any of the automotive corporate offices
- All industry-related meetings will be held online. Face-to-face meetings must be avoided unless necessary. Should a physical meeting be avoided, they MUST comply with agreed protocols [e.g. distance, hygiene, access regulations] and details must be recorded [attendance register and adherence to hygiene requirement minuted];
- The number of seats in canteens will be reduced significantly and extended time slots for lunch breaks will implemented to allow for smaller groups in canteen areas; only hot meals will be served in disposal containers with disposable cutlery. No cold food preparation.

The industry also has several workplace hygiene/employee welfare, and quarantine protocols in place. 

Compiled by Janine Van der Post

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