Asian automakers to suspend North America output

Toyota Motor North America and Honda Motor Co. will temporarily suspend production starting next week in North America as the continent struggles against the spreading coronavirus. Nissan Motor Co. is planning a two-week shutdown beginning on Friday, according to an internal company memo.

Toyota said it is stopping production at all plants Monday and Tuesday next week for a deep cleaning to help contain the virus. It previously halted overtime production and Saturday shifts at some plants in anticipation of lower U.S. light-vehicle sales. 

"Our service parts depots and vehicle logistics centers will continue to operate," Toyota said in a statement. "This action is being taken to help ensure the health and safety of our employees, and due to an anticipated decline in market demand related to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

"We will conduct a thorough cleaning at all of our manufacturing facilities during the shutdown," the company said. "This also will allow Toyota employees to prepare and adjust family plans in relation to regional directives to close schools. The safety and security of our employees, stakeholders and community are a top priority and we will continue to monitor the situation and take action in a timely manner.”

Honda down for six days

Honda said it would halt production for six days because of an anticipated decline in auto sales as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, and will reduce output by about 40,000 units.

Honda will suspend production beginning Monday, March 23, and plans to restart plant output on March 31. It also is suspending operations at transmission and engine plants in North America. Honda will continue to fully pay all associates and will utilize the break to continue deep cleaning production sites and common areas.

The Honda facilities temporarily closing include plants in Ohio, Indiana, Alabama, Canada and Mexico. Honda has no known cases of coronavirus among workers in North America, the company said.

Toyota operates 14 manufacturing plants in North America, including 10 in the U.S. The Japanese automaker, based in Texas, employs 47,000 people in North America, including 36,000 in the United States. A 15th plant in Huntsville, Ala., a joint venture with Mazda, has not begun production. Toyota said it would pay its employees for their lost time.

Nissan idles

Nissan North America is idling production at all three U.S. factories starting Friday in response to the coronavirus crisis.
The shutdown will last two weeks, according to an internal memo obtained by Automotive News. A company spokeswoman did not respond for comment.

For several weeks, a Nissan task force has been monitoring and preparing for possible scenarios tied to COVID-19, David Kershaw, the Nissan division's vice president for sales and regional operations, told U.S. dealers in an email late Wednesday.

“As with most of the industry, we are taking additional measures to do our part to help flatten the curve where possible,” Kershaw said, noting “we do not anticipate that this will cause any disruption to your vehicle supply.”

Nissan employs several thousand people at vehicle assembly plants in Smyrna, Tenn. and Canton, Miss.; as well as a powertrain plant in Decherd, Tenn.

The Smynra plant, the highest volume auto factory in North America, has an annual production capacity of 640,000 vehicles and produces the Nissan Altima, Maxima, Leaf, Rogue, Pathfinder and Infiniti QX60.

The Canton factory has an annual production capacity of 450,000 vehicles and produces the Nissan Altima, Frontier, Titan, Murano and NV cargo and passenger vans.

The powertrain assembly plant in Decherd makes engines for all Nissan and Infiniti vehicles produced in the U.S. The plant also forges crankshafts and cylinder block castings.

Nissan late Friday said it will also halt output at four assembly plants in Mexico. The stoppage, from March 25 through April 14, will affect 11,600 employees.

The shutdown will affect Nissan’s joint venture factory with Daimler AG in Aguascalientes.

In Mexico, Nissan assembles the Sentra and Versa compact sedans, the Kicks crossover, and the NV200 van, among other models.

Hyundai plant closes

Hyundai Motor Co. suspended production at its Montgomery, Ala., plant Wednesday after a worker tested positive for the coronavirus, and will completely disinfect the facility before resuming output.

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama “is suspending production in all areas, for all shifts,” the company said in a press release. “HMMA has notified the Alabama Department of Public Health of this case. Our team members have been informed of the situation.”

Plant officials are conferring with the state health department and the federal Centers for Disease Control to determine if additional measures should be taken regarding plant cleaning.

Hyundai said that once the plant’s health and safety team has determined that production is safe to resume, “our members will be informed.”

The plant, which employs about 3,000 people, produces the Elantra compact sedan, Sonata midsize sedan and the Santa Fe crossover.

Kia monitoring

Kia Motors said Wednesday that its factory in West Point, Ga., was continuing to assemble vehicles, including the popular Telluride three-row crossover that has been in short supply since its year-ago launch. The plant also makes the Sorento crossover and Optima sedan.

“Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia is closely monitoring COVID-19 developments in the United States and continuously working to prevent infections at our facility,” the company said in a statement. “To date, KMMG’s production operations have not been affected.”

On its website, the facility said annual plant capacity is more than 340,000 vehicles.