Cars make way for ventilators as virus hits India

India’s largest carmaker, Maruti-Suzuki, and others including Mahindra, Mercedes-Benz, Fiat Chrysler and Hyundai — have all announced they will halt production in the country due to the coronavirus.

The move could also have a knock-on effect for global car sales as a number of popular economy model ranges are sourced from India — among them various Toyota, Hyundai, Ford, Suzuki and Volkswagen models.

The move comes after carmakers shut plants last week in Europe, the US, Canada and Mexico as the global death toll from coronavirus continued to rise. 

In South Africa, BMW shut down its Rosslyn factory.

Mahindra said it aimed to start making ventilators for coronavirus patients at its manufacturing plants, mirroring similar efforts by other carmakers including Ferrari and Fiat.

About 350 people have so far contracted the disease in India and five deaths have been reported in country, prompting the government to suspend most train and metro services nationwide and order the closure of shops in several states until March 31.

Maruti, which builds one in every two cars sold in India, said it would immediately shut production and office operations 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 Suzuki, said in a statement on Sunday.

The western state of Maharashtra, which has recorded the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country, is home to one of India’s biggest car hubs — Pune — where several car makers are set to halt production indefinitely or until March 31.


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

Group company chairman Anand Mahindra, said on Twitter that the company would  immediately begin work on making ventilators at its plants, adding that it would offer its holiday resorts as temporary care facilities and help the Government in building such centres.

Mercedes-Benz and Fiat as well as motorbike maker Bajaj Auto all said they would halt production at their Pune plants until March 31.

Fiat said it would not cut jobs and continue to pay salaries of all its employees.

Top-selling bike maker Hero has stopped manufacturing at all its plants in India, Bangladesh and Colombia while Tata announced it was rapidly scaling down activity at its car factory in Maharashtra and was preparing to close if necessary.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen’s India unit has stopped production at its facility in Pune for three weeks as part of an ongoing business transition and the safety of its employees.

Hyundai said it was suspending production at its Chennai plant to the end of March in response to the State Government’s lockdown measures as the virus spreads.

Meanwhile, Wuhan, China’s ‘motor city’ and the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, has allowed car producers and parts suppliers to resume work.

Wuhan-based companies that are important to the national and global industry chains and those closely related to people’s livelihood are allowed to continue operation or resume work, deputy governor of Hubei province, Cao Guangjing, said.

Wuhan is home to local joint ventures that produce Buick, Chevrolet, Renault, Peugeot and Honda, as well as a number of part-makers. 


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