PRAGUE -- Automakers in central and eastern Europe are being hit by Russia's decision to shut off natural gas deliveries to the region.
Kia Motors and PSA/Peugeot-Citroen have closed their plants in Slovakia and Suzuki has shut its factory in Hungary due to the gas crisis.
PSA also has postponed the sales launch of the Citroen C3 Picasso to March from February, company sources said.
The small minivan is being built in PSA's plant in Trnava, Slovakia. A PSA spokesman said the production disruption will slow down the launch. "You can't launch a new car without having vehicles in stock," the spokesman said.
PSA halted production in Trnava January 8 after gas supplies stopped. The plant normally makes 850 cars a day on two shifts.
PSA and Kia, along with other industrial companies, have had their gas consumption restricted on a day-to-day basis, sometimes only receiving enough to keep production equipment from being damaged by the winter cold.
The PSA and Kia plants use natural gas to heat production halls and to fuel their paintroom ovens.
"We are almost fully dependent on gas," said PSA plant spokesman Peter Svec.
Kia Motors Slovakia spokesperson Dusan Dvorak said: "This is having a very dramatic affect on us. It is causing uncertainty for us from morning to afternoon. We cannot plan anything."
Even if Russia and Ukraine resolve their differences immediately, restrictions on gas supplies will likely remain in place throughout January according to information from the Slovak gas company SPP.
Volkswagen's factory in Bratislava, Slovakia, factory, has not been hit by the gas shortage. "We are looking at developments closely," spokeswoman Daniela Rutsch said.
Audi's factory in Györ, Hungary, is unaffected by the gas shortage. "We don't use much gas in the production process," said Audi spokesman Peter Lore.
Lawrence Speer contributed