The auto industry is now feeling the weight on the ongoing C-19 pandemic, with veteran automakers Volkswagen and Daimler announcing that they will be suspending production in their European facilities. The news comes as updates from GM, Ford, and Fiat-Chrysler in the US revealed that workers from the Big Three automakers have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Volkswagen’s update was announced by CEO Herbert Diess, who spoke to reporters on Tuesday. Diess stated that amidst the pandemic, Volkswagen has decided to suspend work at most of the company’s European factories for at least two weeks. These include facilities in Spain, Slovakia, and Italy, all of which will be halted by the end of the week.
Frank Witter, chief financial officer at Volkswagen, explained the decision in a statement on Tuesday. “The spread of coronavirus is currently impacting the global economy. It is uncertain how severely or for how long this will also affect the Volkswagen Group. Currently, it is almost impossible to make a reliable forecast. We are making full use of all measures in task force mode to support our employees and their families and to stabilize our business,” he said.
Fellow German carmaker Daimler also announced that it would be suspending most of its production in Europe for at least two weeks in an effort contain the spread of the coronavirus. In a statement, Daimler remarked that the closures would be affecting the company’s car, van, and commercial vehicle facilities.
“The suspension applies to Daimler’s car, van, and commercial vehicle plants in Europe and will start this week. With these closures, Daimler is helping to protect its workforce, to interrupt chains of infection and to contain the spread of the pandemic,” the automaker noted.
Amidst the reports from Europe, American automakers Ford and GM have confirmed to The Detroit News that one employee from each automaker has tested positive for the coronavirus. The carmakers stated that both workers, one from Warren GM and the other from Dearborn Ford, are currently in quarantine and receiving medical attention.
In a statement, Ford spokesman T.R. Reid remarked that the worker who tested positive for COVID-19 was working remotely when the virus was contracted. As a result, the employee is expected to not have spread the virus to co-workers at the Dearborn facility.
“He was exposed after leaving the office several days ago. He was diagnosed before returning to the office. Has not been to the office or any Ford facility,” Reid said, adding that there is currently no need to close the Dearborn plant since the affected employee never returned to the office since contracting the virus.
The General Motors employee who tested positive for the virus, on the other hand, was in the Cole Engineering Center when COVID-19 was contracted. GM’s medical team is currently contacting individuals that may have had direct contact with the employee in question. Once determined, the potentially affected workers will be advised to self-quarantine for two weeks. Public health officials have been contacted to help clean and disinfect work and common areas at the GM site as well.
In a statement, GM noted that the company had been in contact with the employee who contracted the virus. “We have been in contact with the family and put our emergency response plan into action, building on the preventive measures we have already taken, which include directing employees at the Cole Technical Center and other sites to work remotely if possible,” GM stated.
A Fiat Chrysler employee from the company’s Kokomo Transmission Plant in Indiana has also tested positive for the coronavirus. Reports indicate that the FCA employee is receiving medical attention, and those who he came in contact with have been put in self-quarantine.