Coronavirus and the car world: Industry chief wants government push after job cuts
Hyundai Covid-19 safe dealership
Latest updates: SMMT chief reacts to "black week" for UK automotive; Germany's economic stimulus plan includes EV incentives but upsets cars firms
The massive global effects of the coronavirus pandemic have had an equally seismic impact on the car industry.
Factories have been shuttered around the world, dramatic stock market falls have hit the value of virtually every car firm, vehicle sales have plummeted and most major motorsport events have been cancelled.
This is Autocar’s round-up of how the car world is being impacted. It will be updated regularly with information and links to more in-depth stories.
*Friday 5 June: SMMT responds to automotive job cuts; Germany pushes electric vehicles in economic stimulus package*
*●* The chief executive of the *Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) *has called on the government to "double down" on efforts to help the industry recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, following the announcments that more than 2500 jobs could be cut at Bentley, Aston Martin and McLaren Group (see stories below). Leading dealership group Lookers will also cut up to 1500 jobs.
Mike Hawes called the job cuts "devastating", adding: "Whilst the industry is fundamentally strong and agile, it is not invincible. Global industries are challenged and we need to ensure the UK has in place a comprehensive strategy to support the sector and the highly skilled workforce on whom it depends. As the sector strives to weather the worst storm in a generation, measures to drive cash flow, stimulate demand and, above all, maintain our competitiveness are essential.
"Governments must double down on efforts to reboot economies, protect jobs and, internationally, work urgently to secure ambitious free trade agreements which avoid tariffs that add onerous cost and stifle global growth.”
*● *The *German government *has introduced a number of incentives to boost the uptake of electric cars as part of a €130 billion (£115 billion) coronavirus economic stimulus package. Measures include doubling subsidies offered on new electric cars, lowering VAT from 19% to 16%, and an overhaul of vehicle tax that will increase charges for vehicles that emit more than 95g/km of CO2.
Electric cars that cost below €40,000 (£35,500) will attract a €6000 (£5300) incentive. When added to a €3000 (£2600) manufacturer stipend, it the discount offered for EVs to €9000 (£8000). In addition, fuel stations in Germany will be required to provide electric vehicle charging points.
Several major German car firms have been pushing for the introduction of incentives to boost car sales to help them recover from the coronavirus crisis. But with electric cars accounting for less than 2% of the new car market in 2019, the focus on EVs has been met with scorn. In a statement the German car industry association, the VDA, said: "The VDA regrets that the stimulus plan only partially included the auto industry’s proposals for a broad and immediate economic impulse."
*●* *Bentley *is the latest British car manufacturer to announce major job cuts in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown. The Crewe manufacturer is seeking to cut up to 1000 jobs as part of a major restructuring plan. It is initially seeking voluntary redundancies. Read the full story here.
*Thursday 4 June: lockdown continues to hurt UK car sales, Aston Martin and major dealership ground announce job cuts*
*● UK new car sales* fell by 89% year-on-year in May, according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). While the figures are bleak, they are a considerable improvement on April, aided by the government allowing 'click-and-collect' online car sales in the second part of the month. Read the full story here.
*● **Aston Martin* is planning to cut 500 jobs as part of a raft of cost saving measures that will include reduced output on its sports car lines. The British firm recently announced heavy losses due to coronavirus disruption. Read the full story here.
*● *Car dealership group *Lookers* will cut up to 1500 jobs with the closure of 12 sites, a move that chief executive Mark Raban said was to "position the business for a sustainable future". Like all dealership groups, Lookers has been badly hit by the closure of showrooms due to the lockdown. The firm announced last November that it would close 15 dealerships. It currently employs 8000 staff, and the announced closures will leave it with 136 dealerships across the UK.
*● **Rally New Zealand*, which was due to be the next round of this year's World Rally Championship on 3-6 September, has been cancelled. The announcement came the day after Rally Finland was also cancelled. The next scheduled event is Rally Turkey on 24-27 September.
*Wednesday 3 June: LEVC to resume electric taxi production; Volvo's encouraging sales signals; Beaulieu to reopen... although not the museum*
*● *London taxi manufacturer *LEVC*, will begin a phased return to production at its Coventry factory starting from Monday 8 June. The Geely-owned firm, which produced more than 100,000 marks for local NHS hospitals during lockdown, has introduced more than 100 coronavirus-related safety measures to protect start working on its electric TX taxi and VN5 electric vans.
*● *The *PSA Group, *which comprises Citroën, DS, Peugeot and Vauxhall/Opel, has donated more than 50,000 protective face masks to the NHS. The PPE is being given to hospitals and care homes close to the firm's Luton and Ellesmere Port plants and Coventry offices.
*● Volvo *has released its global sales figures for May, which show some encouraging trends that the industry can recover from the impact of Covid-19. The firm sold 44,830 cars in May, and while that was down 25.5 per cent year-on-year, the decline was substantially reduced from April's 43.8 per cent decline.
The firm's sales were down 49.6% year-on-year in Europe, a strong recovery from April as certain countries began to ease lockdown restrictions. In the US Volvo's were only down 2.5% year-on-year, while in China – which has already lifted lockdown restrictions – sales actually role 21.8% compared to May 2019.
*● Rally Finland, *one of the marquee rounds of the World Rally Championship, has been cancelled for 2020. The organisers took the decision to can the rally, due to run on 6-9 August, because of uncertainty over whether travel restrictions would be eased for visitors to enter Finland in the coming months.
WRC organisers are still working on plans for the 2020 season, but the nature of rallies that run over multiple stage across large regions, makes that far more complicated than a circuit race where access can be tightly controlled. The Portuguese and Safari rallies have also been cancelled for 2020, and there are serious doubts over the events in New Zealand – the next secheduled event on the calendar on Septembr 3-6 and Japan.
*● Beaulieu, *which is home to the National Motor Museum, will begin to open its ground from Saturday 6 June. 500 visitors a day will be allowed to tour the grounds of the stateley home – although the motor museum itself will remain closed under current government restrictions.
*Tuesday 2 June: F1 bosses reveal first eight 2020 races; Coronavirus and the UK car industry special report*
*● Formula 1* chiefs have released the calendar for the first eight rounds of the scheduled 2020 season, including a pair of races at Silverstone: the British Grand Prix and the one-off Formula 1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. Neither event will be open to spectators. Read the full story here.
*● *How will the *UK car industry* be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic in the future? Autocar has been investigating for a huge special report that will run on autocar.co.uk across the coming weeks. It will look at the challenges for making and selling cars in Britain, both in the immediate aftermath of the lockdown and the longer-term, investigate which firms will survive, whether sales will recover and the global trends shaping the UK market. Read the first part here.
*Monday 1 June: Car showrooms in England re-open, F1 secures quarantine exemption from British government*
*● Car showrooms* in England are allowed to open for the first time since mid-March today, after the UK government eased the lockdown restrictions on a number of 'non-essential' retail units. All dealerships are required to put a number of Covid-19 health and safety measures in place. Read the full story here.
*● *The UK government has agreed exemptions to its planned quarantine on all arrivals from outside the UK for *Formula 1** *teams and officials, ensuring that Silverstone will be able to host two races in July and August (see Saturday 30 May). According to reports, professional sports teams will be exempt from the quarantine, but must submit detailed movement plans for all members for approval by the government. They will also be required to stay in a 'safe environment' and have minimal contact with others.
*Saturday 30 May: Formula 1 and other competitive sport cleared to return in UK*
*● Formula 1* has been given the go-ahead to stage races at Silverstone, with the UK government approving the return of professional competitive sport. Events can run without spectators behind closed doors from 1 June. Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said: "Football, tennis, horse racing, Formula 1, cricket, golf, rugby, snooker and others are all set to return to our screens shortly."
While the decision clears the way for the British GP to run, there is still no official word on whether F1 team members will be exampt from the planned 14-day quarantine period when entering the UK - which could prevent the races going ahead.
Silverstone has been pencilled in to host two races as part of the rescheduled 2020 season, although the events are now set to take place in late July and early August, a few weeks later than originally planned. Meanwhile, the Austrian government has reportedly approved plans to host two F1 races at the Red Bull Ring on 5 and 12 July. The double-header will start the delayed 2020 season, with F1 bosses currently working to finalise a calendar.
The UK government approval for competitive sport is also good news for UK motorsport series such as the* British Touring Car Championship*, which is scheduled to start its delayed 2020 season in August.
*Friday 29 May: Northern Irish dealerships set for 8 June opening, UK car manufacturing plummets*
*● Car dealershi**ps* *in Northern Ireland* will be allowed to open from 8 June onwards, the country's devolved government has confirmed. New and used car retailers are among 'large non-food retailers' allowed to operate from that date, provided new Covid-19 health and safety steps are in place. They will follow dealerships in England, which are able to open from 1 June onwards.
Sue Robinson, the direction of the National Franchised Dealer Association, said: “The franchised retail automotive sector accounts for well over 11,000 jobs in Northern Ireland. It is important that dealerships reopen to safeguard the people employed and serve all those that need cars to travel to work."
There is no date yet for when dealerships in Wales and Scotland will be allowed to open. The Welsh First Minister has said he hopes to allow 'non-essential' shops to oopen around 19 June.
*● UK car manufacturing* fell by 99.7% in April due to the virtual shutdown of the country's car plants caused by coronavirus lockdown measures. Just 197 cars were built during the month, virtually all of which were premium or luxury machines that had been assembled prior to the lockdown. Read the full story here.
*Thursday 28 May: Ford's hot pursuit car, firms preparing to reopen UK showrooms, 2020 Dutch GP canned, F1 approves major cost-cutting measures*
*● Ford *is introducing a software update for its Police Interceptor Utility models in the USA that can temporarily raise the temperature of the car's cabin to more than 56C for 15 minutes to help reduce the risk of coronavirus infection. The update is available for all of the machines built for law enforcement officials between 2013 and 2019, and was developed with the help of The Ohio State University.
Research suggests that exposing coronavirus to temperatures of 56C – hotter than Death Valley – for 15 minutes or more can reduce the viral concentration on interior surfaces by around 99 per cent. The new system is designed to be used alongside increased cleaning efforts.
*● Kia *has said that all its English showrooms, service centres and MOT centres will open on 1 June, when they are allowed to do so by the government. All dealerships have introduced new health and safety measures in line with UK government requirements.
*● Seat *says it will begin a 'phased' opening of its English showrooms from 1 June onwards. As well as introducing the government's required health and safety measures, Seat is also offering new and returning customers the chance to book appointments in order to limit the number of customers on site. Seat will also continue to offer its Live Showcase 'virtual' vehicle tour service, along with enhanced online services and 'click-and-collect' car handovers.
*● *The *Dutch Grand Prix, *which was originally due to be held in April, has been officially cancelled for the 2020 season. The Zandvoort race would have been F1's return to Max Verstappen's homeland for the first time since 1985, and organisers have said they would rather wait until 2021 than stage an event without fans present. Anyone who bought a ticket for the 2020 race can either attend next year, or have a refund.
*●* *Formula 1 bosses *have officially approved major changes to the sport's technical regulations, including the introduction of a tought new cost cap. F1 teams will now be limited to spending $145 million (£116 million) in 2021, $140m (£112m) in 2022 and $135m (£109m) in each of 2023-2025 under the new cost cap, which has been tightened up to help reduce costs following the coronavirus crisis. Several exclusions to the rules will apply.
The rule changes approved by the FIA World Motor Sport Council to help cut immediate costs also include freezing development of a large number of components including chassis and gearbox until the end of 2021 and limits to powertrain upgrades. The new budget cap was cited by McLaren Group as a contributing factor to its decison to cut a substantial number of jobs in its F1 team recently.
*Wednesday 27 May: Motorsport UK's plan to restart, French government considers massive car industry bailout*
*● Motorsport UK* is aiming to allow motorsport events to run from 4 July onwards. The sanctioning body suspended all event permits in mid-March due to Covid-19, but will now start to process new permit applications from 1 June onwards. The number of event permits will be limited, and will not be open to spectators, while organisers will need to meet several new coronavirus-related health and safety criteria.
*● *The *Renault-Nissan-Mutsubishi Allaiance *has announced a major restructuring of the agreement between the three car firms, with each focusing on key regions and technologies. The moves come as both Nissan and Renault are set to post heavy losses, in part due to the coronavirus outbreak. Read the full story here.
*● *The *French government *has pledged €8 billion (£7.1 billion) to help the country's automotive industry recover from the coronavirus crisis, including the introduction of €7000 (£6230) grants for electric car buyers. Read the full story here.
*Tuesday 26 May: McLaren custs 1200 staff, British GP chiefs hopeful despite quarantine rules, English dealerships to re-open on 1 June *
*● *The *McLaren Group *will cut around 1200 staff across its automotive, racing and technology divisions, as part of a major restructure due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Read the full story here.
*● *The chances of Silverstone staging a pair of *Formula 1 *races, including the British Grand Prix, have been boosted, with reports that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is keen to introduce an exemption to the UK's new quarantine rules to allow the event to go ahead. The government will shortly introduce a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for all overseas arrivals into the country, which could prevent teams from being able to attend Silverstone. The circuit is due to host a pair of races in mid-July, with the first just seven days after the season of two events at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.
The Times has now reported that Johnson raised the issue at a cabinet meeting last week, and is keen to create an exemption to allow sporting events such as the grand prix to go ahead. F1 bosses have talked to officials at Germany's Hockenheim circuit about potentially holding races in place of Silverstone.
*● Car dealerships *in England will be able to re-open on 1 June, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced. All dealerships will need to introduce a number of social distancing and safety measures before customers are allowed to visit. Read the full story here.
*● *This year's* Silverstone Classic *motoring festival has been cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis. The three-day classic race meeting had been due to run on 31 July-2 August, and would have been the event's 30th anniversary. Organisers said that holding the meeting with social distancing measures in place would have been "a huge challenge" due to the large number of competitors, and that it wasn't viable to run behind closed doors. Around 100,000 spectators usually attend the event, which organisers have vowed will return in 2021.
*Monday 25 May: Jaguar Land Rover seeking government loan*
*● Jaguar Land Rover *is said to be seeking a substantial government loan to support it as the effect of the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the automotive industry.
First reported by Sky News, Britain's biggest car maker is said to be asking the Treasury for temporary state funding of over £1bn. JLR has refused to confirm reports beyond stating it is "constantly in discussion with the government on a number of matters", but a spokesperson called suggestions that the loan amount could be as high as £2bn as "inaccurate and speculative".
The company has furloughed around 18,000 of its 38,000 UK employees under the government's Job Retention Scheme. It does not qualify for the Treasury's Corporate Financing Facility, aimed at large businesses, because its credit rating is not strong enough.
JLR's most recent results, for the January to March period, claimed it had £3.6bn in cash and investments alongside an undrawn credit facility of £1.9bn. Credit rating agency Standard and Poor reckoned it has burned through £1bn a month during the crisis, while the initial spread of the virus across Asia saw sales drop by nearly a third between January and March.
*Friday 22 May: SMMT calls for dealerships to re-open to boost economy*
*●** **British car retailers* are “ready to get back to business” and end the £61 million daily cost to the Treasury of keeping dealerships closed, says the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
The UK industry body claims the daily cost is through lost tax income, with automotive retail contributing £36bn a year to the Treasury, and the cost of furloughing the retail sector’s 590,000 employees. It calls for the country’s 4,900-strong network of new car showrooms to be reopened “as a matter of urgency” to allow the market to restart and provide a boost to the economy.
SMMT chief Mike Hawes said “Government measures to support the critical automotive industry during the crisis have provided an essential lifeline, and the sector is now ready to return to work to help the UK rebuild.
“Car showrooms, just like garden centres, are spacious and can accommodate social distancing easily, making them some of the UK’s safest retail premises. Allowing dealers to get back to business will help stimulate consumer confidence and unlock recovery of the wider industry, boosting tax revenue and reducing the burden on government spending”
Earlier this month the British government tentatively gave a date of 1 June for showrooms to re-open as part of the next phase of easing lockdown restrictions. However, this has yet to be confirmed, and depends on the progress of the pandemic.
The SMMT has partnered with the National Franchised Retailers Association (NFDA) to publish best practice guidance for showrooms to ensure social distancing and a safe buying process.
*Thursday 21 May: Jaguar Land Rover completes first models under new social distancing measures, PSA Group launches new anti-bac air con service*
*●** Jaguar Land Rover *yesterday completed production of the first Range Rover made under new social distancing measures at its Solihull factory. As with other cars firms, the British manufacturer has introduced a range of safety measures for production staff to prevent the spread of Covid-19, including social distancing, hygiene and health monitoring and the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) where appropriate.
JLR's factories in Graz, Austria and Nitra, Slovakia also resumed production this week, with the Halewood plant due to resume on 8 June. The firm has resumed "small pockets of business critical activity" at Castle Bromwich in preparation for new model year launches.
*●* The PSA Group, which owns *Citroën*, *DS*, *Peugeot* and *Vauxhall*, has introduced a new 'Complete Anti-Bacterial Refresh' service. The £99 service includes a comprehensive cleaning of a car's air conditioning system, replacement of the car's pollen filers, internal and external disinfection of the vehicle and a 29-point inspection of key parts.
*Wednesday 20 May: Fresh doubts for British Grand Prix*
*●* *Formula 1 *bosses have said that plans to host a pair of races at Silverstone in July will be abandoned unless the UK government grants F1 personnel an exemption from a planned 14-day quarantine restriction for anyone entering the country. The Northamptonshire circuit, the long-time host of the British Grand Prix, has agreed to hold two races as part of the rescheduled 2020 calendar, but the first is due to take place a week after the second of two races at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.
Bosses of Hockenheim Circuit in Germany, which was not originally on the 2020 schedule, have confirmed they are in talks with F1 officials about hosting two races in place of Silverstone.
*Tuesday 19 May: Record fall for European car sales, Ferrari museums reopen in Italy, Motorsport UK sets out guidelines for sport to resume*
*●* *New car sales *in the European Union fell by 76.3% year-on-year in April, the biggest drop since records began, according to data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA). With lockdowns in effect across most of the EU's 27 member states (which no longer includes the UK) just 270,682 cars were sold, compared to 1,143,046 in April last year. In total, car sales in 2020 are down 38.5% across the EU in the first four months of the year compared to 2019. Italy and Spain were the worst-hit EU countries, with tighter lockdowns in both prompting sales to fall by 97.6% and 96.5% respectively. Sales in France fell 88.8%, with Germany down 61.1%.
Across Europe, which includes the EU, UK and countries in the European Free Trade Area (EFTA), sales totalled 292,182 in April, down 78.3% year-on-year. The 3,008,426 cars sold in the region so far in 2020 is down 39.9% year-on-year. In the UK, which is no longer part of the EU, sales fell by 97.3% in April.
Jaguar Land Rover was the worst-hit car firm across Europe (the EU, UK and EFTA) in April, with its 1852 models sold an 88.6% drop on 2019. Honda's sales were down 88.5% year-on year, to 1067 cars. The FCA Group, whose firms include Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Jeep, sold 10,952 cars, a fall of 87.7%. Other major European firms also posted sharp losses, with the PSA Group down 82.4%, Daimler down 80.1%, Group Renault down 79.5%, the VW Group down 75% and the BMW Group down 69.7%.
*● **Ferrari* has reopened its museums in Maranello and Modena, in line with Italian government advice. Various safety measures, including temperature checks, will be in place, with entry numbers limited. Time slots can be booked in advance. Ferrari has also given healthcare workers free access to the museums for the remainder of 2020, with discounts for their family.
*● **British motorsport *bosses have outlined plans for the phase restart of the sport in the UK. Motorsport UK has suspended all event permits until at least 30 June, but has proposed a series of measures to allow the sport to resume in line with government rules. Among the measures, competitors, crews and other attending events will be required to complete pre-event declarations that they are free of Covid-19 symptoms, and team personnel will be required to wear PPE.
The measures will allow most forms of motorsport to resume, although they will not include categories with more than one person in the car at any time. As a result, the only rallies initially permitted to take place will be 'single-venue' time trial-style events, with drivers competing without a navigator.
*Monday 18 May: Ford resumes UK engine production*
*● **Ford* has resumed production at its UK engine plants in Dagenham and Bridgend, with new social distancing and safety measures in place. Everyone on the site will be required to wear a Ford-supplied face mask, with plastic face shields used in certain manufacturing areas where social distancing cannot be maintained. Everyone on site will also be required to undergo temperature checks, and be provided with a personal 'care kit'.
*Friday 15 May: Bentley set to expand production plans, England road upgrades, London Congestion Charge increase, major motorsport set to resume*
*● **McLaren* is considering mortgaging its Woking factory and collection of historic racing cars in a bid to raise cash, according to reports. Sources told Sky News that McLaren Group – which encompasses both the road car division and Formula 1 team – was considering the plan in a bid to raise up to £275 million to help cashflow during the coronavirus pandemic. A request for a £150 million loan from the government was recently rejected, according to reports.
In a statement, a McLaren spokesperson said: “Like many other British businesses McLaren has been severely affected by the current pandemic and we are therefore exploring a variety of different funding options to help navigate these short-term business interruptions.
*● **Bentley* has published its Covid-19 risk assessment, as it prepares to further ramp up production at its Crewe factory. The British firm resume production this week, with more than 1700 staff working on the Bentayga and Mulsanne production lines. Bentley will restart the Continental GT and Flying Spur lines next week, with all of its lines initially running at around 50 per cent capacity.
All companies with more than 50 employees are now required to conduct an online Covid-19 risk assessment from the Health and Safety Executive, and to display the resulting certificate. Bentley says it has introduced 250 new health and safety measures to protect workers.
*● **Honda* is set to resume production at its Swindon factory in June, with new safety measures in place. The Honda Civic is currently produced at the plant, which is due to close in July 2021.
*● **Silverstone* has agreed a deal to host two *Formula 1* races behind closed doors – if UK government restrictions allow. The home of the British Grand Prix was part of initial plans by F1 bosses to restart the season in July, but there have been reports of a dispute over the finances of hosting events without fans.
The 2020 season is now due to start with back-to-back races at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, followed by back-to-back races at Silverstone. But plenty of questions remain, including whether UK restrictions will be in place. The plans could also require F1 to receive dispensation for team members to avoid a 14-day lockdown period when travelling from Austria to the UK.
F1 bosses are still working on a 15 to 18 race calendar, with Hockenheim in Germany and Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium both in line to host races.
*● *If you can't wait until July for your fix of major motorsport events, the *NASCAR Cup Series* is due to resume in the USA this weekend. The stock car series will kick off with races at Darlington in South Carolina on Sunday and next Wednesday, following by races at Charlotte Motor Speedway on 24 and 27 May.
The circuits were chosen because they are located near Charlotte, North Carolina, where the vast majority of NASCAR teams are based, reducing travel times. Both are in states that have also loosened lockdown restrictions. Teams will only be allowed to bring limited staff members to each event, and no practice will be held to reduce time at the venue and any risks.
*● Motorsport Vision *will resume trackdays and testing at Brands Hatch, Donington Park, Oulton Park, Snetterton, Cadwell Park and Bedford Autodrome from Monday 18 May onwards. The circuits will initially open to professional teams for semi-exclusive testing, with track days set to resume from 26 May, with new Covid-19 safety measures and guidance in place.
*● *Transport secretary Grant Shapps has said the government is using the reduction in traffic during the lockdown to accelerate *major infrastructure projects* on England's roads. He also laid out further details of plans to boost the nation's EV charging infrastructure. Read the full story here.
*● *The *London Congestion Charge *will come back into force on Monday, having been suspended for the duration of the lockdown – and the price will rise. Read the full story here.
*Thursday 14 May: McLaren and Morgan staff return to factory, Ford's new production line, Ferrari F1 team's ventilator*
*● **McLaren* has confirmed that it has begun a phased resumption of production at its Woking plant, initially on its range-topping Ultimate Series line.
In a statement, the firm said: "While vehicle production was suspended in March due to the pandemic, a small team has been supporting efforts to provide much-needed ventilator equipment to the NHS. This vital work has been carried out with stringent health and safety measures in place to protect our key workers and many of those learnings have helped us to recommence limited activity on our Ultimate Series line with a view to gradually ramping-up production.”
*● **Morgan* has also resumed limited production at its factory. Around 20 staff returned to work on Monday 12 May, with their initial aim to finish vehicles in the second half of production.
The firm added: "This very small scale reintroduction provides us a good opportunity to prove some of the new social distancing measures we have put in place throughout the factory alongside government guidelines. The welfare of our employees and compliance with social distancing measures remains the number one priority when we’re considering any of our business operations. We will reintroduce more staff back to the factory only when we feel it is safe to do so."
*● **Ford* has converted an empty warehouse at its Dagenham plant into a temporary production facility for ventilators to help treat coronavirus patients. The car giant is producing 15,000 Penlon Prima ES02 ventilators as part of the VentilatorChallenge UK consortium, and created the new production facility in three weeks. Ford estimates it would usually take a year to construct a production line. When full production is reached, more than 650 people will work in three shifts on the line.
Ford will resume engine production at Dagenham on 18 May (see below), although the ventilator production area will be kept separate from the car facilities.
*● *The* Scuderia Ferrari *Formula 1 team has partnered with the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) to develop a ventilator to help hospitals treat Covid-19 patients. The team says the new device uses easily available materials, with the design published on an open source platform so that anyone can produce it. The ventilator even has its own F1 chassis-style codename: FI5, representing the initials of Ferrari and the IIT and the number of weeks it took to design and produce the first prototype.
The FI5 is one of a number of joint projects between Ferrari and the IIT, with the supercar firm backing healthcare projects in the Modena region, producing respirators and protective mask parts.
*Wednesday 13 May: Car dealers given guidance for reopening, Aston Martin losses increase, Volkswagen suspends production due to low demand*
*● *New industry guidance on the safe reopening of *car showrooms* has been published by the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) and Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The best-practice guidance covers the whole customer journey, including booking appointments, showroom visits, test drives, 'click-and-collect' services, part-exchanges and after sales. It includes advice on staff training, signage, sanitation measures and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
While car dealers will be unable to open showrooms until 1 June at the earliest, those based in England will be allowed to conduct 'click-and-collect' deliveries for models ordered online or over the phone, according to the latest UK government guidelines. Read the full story here.
*● **Vauxhall* will being a "gradual and secured" resumption of production at its Luton van plant on Monday 18 May, following the implementation of "reinforced health protocols" developed by the PSA Group. The measures include temperature checks at the entrance to the facility, the provision of facemarks and sanitiser, social distancing protocols and enhanced tool cleaning measures. Yann Vincent, PSA's manufacturing chief, said that protecting the health of employees and commercial demand "will guide our decisions" on the resumption of production at its plants.
*● **Ford* will resume production at its UK plants in Dagenham and Bridgend on 18 May. With the firm's engine plant in Valencia, Spain due to open next week, the opening of the two UK factories will mean all of Ford's European sites will be operational. The firm will provide all employees with facemasks and equipment in a special care kit, and check the temperature of all staff on arrival.
The firm will also continue to produce ventilators through its role in the VentilatorChallenge UK consortium.
*● **Volkswagen* has paused production of the seventh and eigth generation Golf, Tiguan and Seat Tarraco at its Wolfsburg factory due to a lack of demand for new cars in Europe, according to The Financial Times. The newspaper cites an interview by VW manager Arne Meiswinkel with an internal publication saying the firm had to “align production to the expected market fluctuations”.
Production resumed at Wolfsburg in recent weeks with a limited number of staff following new health protocols, but with most dealerships in Europe still shut, sales and deliveries of new cars on the continent have virtually dried up.
*● **Aston Martin *Lagonda Ltd posted losses of nearly £119 million in the first three months of 2019 due to the onset of the Covid-19 crisis. But the firm says that deliveries of the DBX SUV are on track to begin this summer, with its St Athan facility now operational again. Read the full story here.
*● **Tesla* has been given permission by local authorities to resume production at its Fremont, California plant next week. The firm has sued Alameda County after it refused to give it permission to resume operations, and began to open the plant earlier this week.
In a statement, the Alameda County Public Health Department said that it had received an updated safety plan from Tesla, and said that: "If Tesla's Prevention and Control Plan includes these updates, and the public health indicators remain stable or improve" the firm can resume minimum operations this week, and resume car production next week.
County officials said they would work with the Fremont Police Department "to verify Tesla is adhering to physical distancing and that agreed upon health and safety measures are in place for the safety of their workers."
The extraordinary dispute between Tesla and Alameda County was joined earlier yesterday by US President Donald Trump, who tweeted: "California should let Tesla and Elon Musk open the plant, NOW. It can be done Fast and Safely!"
*Tuesday 12 May: Toyota expects sharp falls in profits, UK government sets guidelines for shops to open; Tesla opens California factory despite local orders*
*● **Toyota* expects its profits to fall by 80 per cent this year as demand for new cars is hit by the coronavirus outbreak. The firm made 2.4 trillion yen (£18.4 billion) in the financial year that ended in March, with the 8,958,000 cars it sold down just 0.8% on 2019.
With worldwide lockdown measures in place for April and the impact of Covid-19 likely to be felt long-term, Toyota is expecting car sales to fall by 1.95 million in the financial year that ends in March 2021, with profits falling to 500 billion yen (£3.8 billion).
Speaking at the firm’s annual results presentation, company boss Akio Toyoda said the Covid-19 pandemic “has dealt us a bigger shock than the 2008 global financial crisis.”
Toyoda added that making PPE and ventilators to support medical services in Japan demonstrated Toyota’s determination to help society overcome the virus. He added: “There is no crisis that humankind cannot overcome. For us to overcome the Covid-19 crisis together, Toyota is ready to do whatever it can to make itself of use.”
*● *The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has published guidance for how businesses can safely resume work during the coronavirus outbreak. The measures include guidelines that shops – including *car showrooms* – will be required to follow when they are allowed to open. At present, non-essential shops will open in "phases" from 1 June onwards, with car firms expecting to be told of a clearer timeline today.
Before shops can open they will need to have performed an online Health and Safety Executive (HSE) risk assessment and inspection - with random spot checks in the future to ensure they comply. Shops must also follow a series a number of health and safety measures, including the provision of cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures, the enforcement of two-metre social distancing where possible, and steps to mitigate any risk of transmission as much as possible.
*● **Tesla* has reopened its Fremont, California factory - in defiance of local regulations. While the state has eased its stay-at-home restrictions to allow manufacturing to resume, officials in Alameda County, where the plant is located, have so far not given permission for it to reopen. That prompted Tesla to file a lawsuit against county officials over the weekend.
Staff have now return to work at the site, with production resuming yesterday (Monday). On Twitter, company boss Elon Musk said: "Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules. I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me." Read the full story here.
*● **McLaren* has reopened its factory in Woking, but company boss Mike Flewitt has said that it won't reach previous levels of activity until July. Speaking in an online Financial Times Global Boardroom interview, Flewitt said that 90 of the firm's more than 200 suppliers were forced to close due to coronavirua lockdowns, but all were now preparing to reopen. He added that new social distancing measures meant the plant can't run at "peak" capacity.
Speaking about sales, Flewitt said he expects "a good proportion of demand" to return "very quickly" when showrooms can reopen, but expected it would take a couple of years to return to 2019 levels.
*Monday 11 May: Ferrari back to full production, Tesla in legal row over plant reopening plans*
*● UK car dealerships* are unlikely to reopen until 1 June at the earliest following new government guideance on coronavirus restrictions. All non-essential shops and businesses, including dealerships, have been forced to close retail sites since late March as part of lockdown measures to slow the spread of Covid-19.
There had been hopes that Prime Minister Boris Johnson would allow car dealers and some other retail businesses to reopen with social distancing measures in place. But a guidance document entitled 'Staying alert and safe' that has been published by the government today make no mention of car dealerships, with only garden centres (from Wednesday onwards) added to the list of retailers now allowed to open.
The government has said that "the intention" is for non-essential retail businesses to begin opening "in phases from 1 June", and says it will shortly issue guidance on which businesses will be involved in those phases, and the likely timelines.
While dealerships will seemingly not be able to open showrooms until then, they are currently able to sell cars either online or over the phone, and arrange remote deliveries. It is understood that more 'sector specific' guidance will follow in the coming days, which should provide some clarity.
The National Franchised Dealer Association told Autocar: "The NFDA is currently requesting further clarification from Government. We expect sector specific guidance to be published tomorrow, this is likely to provide us with a clearer picture of the next steps."
However, manufacturing firms in the UK – which will include car plants – are being encouraged to resume work, with the government saying that "sectors of the economy that are allowed to be open should be open." Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin and Jaguar Land Rover are among the car firms to have already resumed limited production in line with the new 'Covid-19 secure guidelines' on health and safety.
*● Bentley* has restarted production in a limited capacity at its headquarters in Crewe, Cheshire. 1,700 employees are now at the site to start a "phased production ramp-up", which for now means running at 50% capacity with double 'takt time' (the time it takes cars to move from each manufacturing stage to the next).
The 50% capacity will run for 'a number of weeks', with the remaining 500 staff due to return in mid-June. Initially the Mulsanne and Bentayga lines will begin to roll, with Flying Spur and Continental GT lines restarting next week. The whole facility, including areas such as bathrooms, has been restructured around social distancing measures to ensure two-metre distancing between colleagues.
*● *The UK government has also made it easier for cities and other local authorities to close roads to cars in order to encourage cycling and walking. Read the full story on that here.
*● **Ferrari* says its Maranello and Modena factories have now returned to full production after the gradual reopening under its "Back on Track" programme. The first car to be finished on the Special Series production line was a black and grey Monza SP2, with an 812 GTS Spider and F8 Tributo the first machines off the V12 and V8 lines respectively. Ferrari has introduced a number of new health and safety protocols at its plants.
*● **Tesla* has sued Alameda County officials because the firm says they will not allow its Fremont, California factory to reopen. Tesla boss Elon Musk has also threatened the move the firm's HQ and shift future production facilities to Texas and Nevada. Read the full story here.
*● *Jean Todt, the president of the *FIA* and the former boss of the Ferrari F1 team, believes that the focus governments have applied to tackling coronavirus should also be put on reducing road deaths in the future. Read the full story here.
*● **Honda* will gradually resume production in its North American factories in the USA and Canada this week. Staff will receive training about new social distancing and safety measures put in place at the various sites, which closed on 23 March.
*Thursday 7 May: Aston Martin's new working methods, Ford USA starts deliveries of medical equipment*
*● Aston Martin*, which began the phased resumption of production at its St Athan Facility on Tuesday (5 May), and has outlined a number of the new safety protocols it has put in place to protect staff. As well as new limits to the total number of staff on site at any time and social distancing measures, the firm has also drawn up guidance on PPE usage (such as the mandatory usage of masks on site) and temperature checks on arrival.
The firm's crucial new DBX SUV is being built at the St Athan plant. Aston says that it will resume work at its Gaydon plant "in due course."
*● *With car firms slowing resuming production in plants across the UK and Europe, how are they managing to efficiently build new cars while also ensuring their workers are kept safe and health. We've taken a look at how production lines are operating in the new age of social distancing. Read more here.
*●* The *Indian car market* made unfortunate history in April, with zero new cars sold in a country with a population of 1.3 billion. The complete collapse of the car market was due to India's lockdown measures, which were introduced in mid-March and are some of the strictest in the world. There is some hope of a recovery, with a number of the country's car plants beginning to resume production.
Meanwhile, as the automotive industry has worldwide, a number of Indian-based car manufacturers have been helping to aid coronavirus relief efforts in the country. Various firms have been providing financial support to care agencies and helping to manufacture ventilators and PPE. Our colleagues at Autocar India have outlined how car firms are helping here.
*●* *Volkswagen South Africa *will help turn a currently-unused car factory in Port Elizabeth into a temporary medical facility for patients with Covid-19. The Neave plant will be turned into a hospital for patients who require ventilation, and will eventually be able to house up to 4000 patients.
The German government is providing £4.5 million of funding for the facility, with VW South Africa adding £1.2 million. The plant will be available to the South African government until March 2021.
*● **Ford* USA has begun to distribute the new Purified Air-Powering Respirators (PAPR) that it has designed and built at one of its Michigan plants with help from 3M. The device uses a number of off-the-shelf car parts, including elements from the F-150 pick-up's ventilated seats. The firm has assembled more than 10,000 of the devices, which it only started work on 40 days ago, and says it has the capacity to produce 100,000 if required.
The firm has also begun production of reusable gowns for healthcare workers. It is currently producing 200,000 a week, and has already sent out 400,000 to various healthcare providors across the USA. It has now received an order for 500,000 gowns from the state of New Jersey.
*Wednesday 6 May: BMW's car sales warning, Skoda supporting front-line fleet vehicles, Volkswagen's DIY disinfectant dispenser*
*● BMW *has warned that it expects the coronavirus pandemic to affect demand for new cars for the remainder of 2020, even as lockdown restrictions are eased. BMW Group chairman has also cautioned that the industry shouldn't expect the European car market to recover as quickly as it has in China since lockdown measures were loosened there. Read the full story here.
*● **Skoda* has taken a number of measures to support emergency services fleet customers of its 'blue light' vehicles on the road. The Czech firm supplies speciall modified Karoq, Kodiaq, Superb and Octavia vehicles to a number of emergency services and other frontline care providers. Demand for the vehicles has significantly increased, and Skod has both expanded its service and maintenance provisions for such vehicles, and sourced extra vehicles for a number of NHS trusts.
*● **Volkswagen* has now resumed production at many of its plants, and to do so has required the introduction of hundreds of new health and safety measures, including making disinfectant and sanitiser easily available to staff. To enable that, staff at its Emden factory, with produces the Passat and Arteon, have started producing their own disinfectant dispensers.
The unit (pictured below) uses a metal barrel as a body and contains 146 parts, most of which are sourced from existing stock. For example, the disinfectant nozzle is normally used in the Passat windscreen cleaner, and the stainless steel bowl for employees to wash hands in was previously used in the VW canteen's salad bar. The Emden plant is now making 100 of the units a week for use in other VW factories.
*Tuesday 5 May: UK new car registrations slump, Ferrari production begins to resume at Maranello*
*● Fiat Chrysler Automobiles *posted a net loss of €1.7 billion (£1.45 billion) in the first quarter of 2020. The group's brands, which include Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Jeep, sold a totla of 818,000 cars worldwide, down 21% on 2019 levels as various restrictions were put in place to tackle the coronavirus. Notably, those figures do not include April, where the firm's sales were even more dramatically reduced across various European countries.
FCA said it is currently preparing to resume production at several factories based on demand, local restrictions and the introduction of new health and safety measures, with boss Mike Manley saying that "I have the utmost confidence in our ability to navigate through this crisis and emerge wellpositioned to grow and prosper on the other side." FCA also said that it "remains committed" to its merger with the PSA Group, which is set to be finalised either late this year or in early 2021.
*● **UK new car registrations *fell by 97.3% year-on-year in April 2020, with just 4321 cars sold due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions. The conclusion of a number of pre-ordered sales helped the Tesla Model 3 to top the sales charts, just ahead of the Jaguar I-Pace. Read the full story here.
*● **Ferrari* has begun to open its Maranello factory in Italy today. Following a series of training sessions under its 'Back on Track' programme (see Friday 1 May) the supercar manufacturer will gradually ramp up production, with the aim to return to full output by Friday.
*Monday 4 May: UK car production resumes today, Dacia and Ford restart in Romania, 2021 F1 budget takes a hit*
*● **Formula One* managing director Ross Brawn claims the sport is in the final stages of agreeing a reduced spending cap for the 2021 season, dropped from $175m to $145m. Brawn says it is due to the economic consequences of the pandemic, sharply accelerating the need to cut costs further.
*●* Car production is set to resume in the UK today for the first time since lockdown measures to tackle coronavirus were introduced, with *Rolls-Royce* beginning a staggered restart of its Goodwood facility. Read our story on how the company plans to resume work here.
*●* With *Rolls-Royce *opening its factory this week and *Bentley* due to follow suit on Monday 11 May, luxury firms are leading the way in getting the UK car industry up and running. Jim Holder analyses what that means here.
*● Dacia and Ford *have restarted production in Romania after output was halted in March. Ford builds the Ecosport small SUV there, while it's Dacia's main production hub where the Duster, Logan and Sandero are built. Ford has a single shift and about half its workers, while Dacia has three shifts workng on its mechanical and chassis lines.
*●* The *PSA Group *has begun the phased resumption of manufacturing at various continental European plants. As with other firms, it has introduced a number of health and safety measures to protect staff including temperature checks, social distancing and the provision of masks and hand sanitiser. The firm says that the order in which it opens plants will be driven first by the ability to protect staff, and then by commercial demand for particular models produced at various sites.
*●* *Porsche* has also restarted car manufacturing today, with health and safety protocols in place so that production lines can limited work at both its Zuffenhausen and Leipzig plants in Germany. Fellow VW Group brand Bugatti has also restarted production of the Chiron and Divo at its Molsheim factory in France.
*●* *Jaguar Land Rover* says it is expanding its online sales services for UK buyers. The service, which has been gradually expanded over the last year, allows customers to spec and then order cars online, and includes facilities such as part-exchange valuations and finance applications.
The firm is also offering "tailored services" for vehicle deliveries that meet the UK government's social distancing and hygiene guidelines, with several dealerships set to introduce special handover bays.
*●* Autocar has learned that car industry executives have hed talks with UK government officials about including *car dealerships* in the first wave of 'non-essential' businesses allowed to open once officials start to ease lockdown measures. Read our exclusive story here.
*●* Need some lockdown entertainment? Got any cogs lying around? Then you could help *Honda* to recreate its famous 'cog' advert. It featured a chain of cogs and other parts all taken from a Honda Accord, and is one of five adverts that ITV has challenged the public to remark for a 'People's Ad Break' on Saturday 23 May.
*Friday 1 May: French new cars sales plummet, Italian supercar firms gear up to resume production*
*●* With lockdown restrictions in place near-worldwide for the whole of April, we've been expecting *new car sales* to plummet - even compared to the sharp fall seen in March. That fear has been confirmed by new sales data from the French car industry body, the CCFA. They show that just 20,997 cars were sold in the country in April, an 88.8% decline on the 188,195 sales in April 2019.
The PSA Group sold 10,098 cars across its Citroën, DS, Opel and Peugeot brands, a fall of 84.4%. Group Renault (which includes Dacia and Alpine) sold 7148 new cars, a decline of 83.9%.
*● **Lamborghini* is due to resume production at its Sant-Agata base on Monday 4 May, following work with government officials and trade unions to establish new safety protocols. The firm has also confirmed it will "present a new car in order to complete our model range" online on 7 May.
*● **Ferrari* will begin its preparations to resume production at Maranello on Monday, launching what it calls its 'installation lap' programme. This will consist of safety training for employees who will be involved in car production, and will run alongside the firm's 'back on track' scheme that involves offering testing and screening to staff and their families.
*● **Ford* has begun preparations for the resumption of car production at several of its continental European plants next week by increasing its output of facemarks and face shields for staff to use. Staff at Ford's Dunton, UK site have installed two machines that can make up to 90 general use face masks per minute, and which are now running constantly. Face masks are being made in Germany, Spain and Romania, and all will be distributed as needed around Ford's plants.
*● **Morgan* is the latest firm to confirm it will extend the warranty period of its vehicles. It has assed three months of full manufacturer warranty to any vehicle with a warranty start date from 1 October 2017 to any car registered until 31 May 2020.
*Thursday 30 April: Nissan extends Sunderland shutdown, industry counts cost of sales slump, Hummer EV reveal delayed*
*● **Nissan* has extended the production halt at its Sunderland plant throughout May. It halted work at the facility on 17 March, and says that it is now “planning a phased resumption of production” in early June.
The firm recently started testing new health and safety protocols with a trial workforce on its powertrain team, the results of which will be used to finalise safety measures for a full production resumption.
In a statement Nissan said: “During this period the majority of plant employees will remain furloughed, and we are grateful for the government support that has enabled us to take this action.
“Our goal is to navigate through this crisis while maintaining activities critical for business continuity and to make sure we are prepared for the time when business resumes in Europe and we can welcome the Nissan team back to work.”
*● *The closure of *UK car plants *due to lockdown restrictions will cost the car industry £8.2 billion, according to new data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Production fell 37.6% in March, with 140 days of production lost. Read the full story here.
*● Global car sales *fell 37% year-on-year in March, according to data from industry analysts Jato Dynamics. A total of 5.55 million cars were sold worldwide in March 2020, compared to 9.03 million last year. Europe was the hardest-hit region, with the impact of various lockdown restrictions causing sales to fall 52% to 848,800, the lowest March total for 38 years.
Notably, electric car sales in Europe continued to rise year-on-year, with the 147,500 EVs sold a 15% increase on 2019. That gave EVs a 17.4% share of the new car market, a new record.
There are some positive signs from China, which was the first country hit by the coronavirus and has begun to ease lockdown restrictions. Production in March reached 75% of average 2019 levels, and while the 1.08 million cars sold in March was 30% down on 2019, it also represented a 427% increase over February.
*● *The new *GMC Hummer EV *is the latest new car to have its launch postponed because of the coronavirus. The 1000bhp electric SUV will be the first car from the revived brand, but parent company GM says it is still on track to go on sale in Autumn 2021. Read the full story here.
*● Volkswagen *has resumed work at a number of its plants in Europe, but has postponed plans to restart production at its US factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The firm said it has yet to set a new restart date, and "will weigh the readiness of the supplier base, as well as market demand and the status of the Covid-19 outbreak."
*Wednesday 29 April: Ford sets days for European production restart, Bentley boss on returning to work, car firms facing sharp profit falls*
*● Ford *has become the latest major brand to put dates on restarting production across its European facilities. The brand has confirmed that most plants will open on Monday, May 4, including its Saarlouis and Cologne plants in Germany, its Valencia plant in Spain and further factories in Romania and Turkey.
Engine production will also commence, with only the Valencia engine plant holding off until 18 May. Its facilities in the UK, however, have not been given a specific date for reopening. Despite the news, Ford admits that it will be "a few months" before production output is ramped up to normal levels.
Meanwhile, Ford is predicting an operating loss of around £4bn in the second quarter of 2020, due to the impact of production shutdowns and lockdown measures introduced to combat the coronavirus. The firm is understood to have indefinitely postponed plans for a number of new models as a result. Read the full story here.
*● **Bentley* will begin to resume production at its Crewe factory next week. Autocar spoke to company boss Adrian Hallmark about the plans, and how the coronavirus outbreak has affected its 2020 plans. Read the full story and interview here.
*● *The *Volkswagen Group* suffered an 81.4% drop in operating profits over the first three months of 2020 compared to last year - but the firm says it is still on track to post a profit, albeit greatly reduced, this year. Read the full story here.
*Tuesday 28 April: Jaguar Land Rover ramps up protective visor production, why you'll need to move fast to bag a new car bargain*
*● Jaguar Land Rover *is scaling up production of NHS-approved face visors at its Advanced Product Creation Centre in Gayden. The firm designed and began production of a 3D-printed visor recently (see Friday 3 April, below), and has now been supplied new tooling enabling it to increase output to 14,000 visors a week.
The new injection mould tooling has been supplied by WHS Plastics, and meant JLR can produce up to 2000 of the polypropylene devices per day. The visors have been supplied to NHS Trusts across the UK.
Jaguar Land Rover has also released the CAD files for the visors so that other manufacturers with suitable equipment can start to produce them. The files can be downloaded here.
*● *The UK lockdown has already prompted rushes to buy pasta, UHT milk, flour, home gym equipment and, in recent days, hair clippers. Could *new cars *be next? Jim Holder has talked to industry insiders who think pent-up demand for new vehicles could increase new car prices once dealer showrooms begin to open up again. Read his analysis here.
*Monday 27 April: Bentley's community support, no fans for British GP, European car production gradually resuming*
*● Bentley *will supply more than 30,000 3D printed face shields to the Chesire care sector, NHS and other local community care service in the region as part of its expanded 'Be Safe' support programme (see Monday 20 April, below).
The face shields have been created by Bentley's engineering team, and deliveries will be made to all 95 care homes in the region of the firm's Cheshire base. Bentley has also donated 20,000 pairs of disposable gloves, 10,000 facemarks, 1000 disposable seat covers and more than 40 pairs of safety glasses to care providers in the region.
Bentley is also expanding its 'Meals on 22-inch Wheels' programme to deliver food and other essential items to vulnerable people in the community. Volunteers has begun delivering parcels for food banks and charities, and the service is now also delivering medical supplies.
*● **Fiat Chrysler Automobiles* has begun to restart its production plants in Italy, with the opening of the commercial vehicle plans in Atessa that it runs as a joint venture with the *PSA Group*. Most of the plants 6000 employees have returned to work today, with the entire plans having been cleaned and sanitised before their arrival. A number of social distancing and safety measures, agreed by FCA, PSA and Italian unions, will be put in place.
*● Volkswagen *is continuing to restart its plants, with its main factory in Wolfsburg resuming production of the Golf today. The firm says that 8000 staff will return to work today, with Golf production initially running at 10 to 15 per cent of capaci