Europe’s largest suppliers are mostly keeping their plants open, even as automakers pause production in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Italian brake producer Brembo and the tire giants Michelin and Pirelli have announced that some of their factories would be temporarily closed, but as of Tuesday afternoon, Bosch, Continental, Valeo and ZF Friedrichshafen all said their plants would continue to operate.
All suppliers said, however, said the situation could change if automakers cut orders in response to falling demand and also depended on government regulations intended to curb the spread of the virus. Many European suppliers produce parts for global markets that are not yet heavily affected by restrictions.
Plastic Omnium, the French supplier that makes body panels and fuel systems, said it was following its customers’ lead as they closed assembly plants and that by the end of this week its own production would cease.
Transmission maker ZF said in a statement that some customers had informed the supplier that they were slowing or halting production. As a result, some deliveries were being reduced or redirected to plants that were operating normally. “Our aim is to supply our customers for as long as possible and as required,” ZF said, adding that it was not possible to precisely say how the slowdown in vehicle production would affect individual plants around the world.
Robert Bosch said that “for the most part, we are currently managing to keep our manufacturing operations largely maintained” as well as its own supply chains.
Bosch, based in Stuttgart, Germany, ranks No. 1 in the Automotive News Europe list of top 100 global suppliers, with worldwide original-equipment automotive parts sales of $49,525 million in 2018.
Continental, the second-largest European supplier, said “temporary plant closures are the last resort and are implemented only in extreme bases and when stipulated by authorities.” It said in a statement that pandemic plans “already successfully implemented during the swine flu pandemic” were being put into action on a case-by-base basis.”
Webasto, which makes sunroofs, said that all European and US plants were running but added, “how this will develop in the coming days will depend very much on the future production plans.”
Mahle, which makes pistons and other engine components, said three employees who worked at locations in facilities in Stuttgart and Kornwestheim, Germany had been infected with the coronavirus and were in isolation. A Mahle spokesman told Automobilwoche, a sister publication of Automotive News Europe, that the company had “regional disruptions in business processes in Europe,” without being specific.
A Valeo spokesman said the current volume of orders was sufficient to keep all plants operational for now. He added that Valeo, based in Paris, was paying close attention to hygiene measures and watching how the epidemic unfolds. Autoliv, the Swedish safety component maker, also said it had not closed any plants.