Nissan and Toyota shut UK factories as Ford and VW announce Europe-wide closures

Nissan and Toyota have announced that they are temporarily closing their UK factories in in the face of the coronavirus.

Nissan said that its Sunderland plant - where the Qasqhai, Leaf and Juke are built - will close from Wednesday, March 18 until at least the end of the week and it would monitor the situation beyond that.

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The plant is the largest car factory in the UK and employs around 6,000 people. Nissan has not said if the temporary shutdown will lead to job losses but warned that further measures may be necessary.

Both of Toyota's facilities - in Burnaston and Deeside - have also been closed with immediate effect and until further notice. The closures are part of a wider suspension of production at all of Toyota's European sites, which also include factories in France, Poland, the Czech Republic and Turkey.

In a statement, Toyota said: "With the acceleration of the coronavirus in various European countries or regions and the associated “lock-down” measures taken by various national and regional authorities, an uncertain short-term sales outlook and difficulties in logistics and supply chains are being felt and will increase in the next weeks.

"TME [Toyota Motors Europe] has consequently decided to organise a progressive suspension of its vehicle and engines/transmissions production plants in Europe starting on 18 March until further notice."

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The announcements came at the same time as Ford and Volkswagen confirmed they would be shutting all their European production facilities over the coming days, and a day after Vauxhall suspended production at its Ellesmere Port and Luton factory.

At the same time, Vauxhall’s parent group PSA announced it was shutting its facilities in France, Spain, Germany, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia and Seat, Nissan, Renault, Ferrari and Lamborghini have also announced plant closures in Spain and Italy ranging from two days to two weeks in reaction to the outbreak.

Falling demand

Manufacturers have been hit by a combination of falling demand for vehicles and problems with supply chains as other businesses and factories are forced to cut or stop production.

Ford’s closures affect all its car, van and engine manufacturing sites in continental Europe and take effect from Thursday, March 19 and will continue “for a number of weeks”.

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“While the impact of coronavirus at our facilities so far has been limited thankfully, its effects on our employees, dealers, suppliers and customers, as well as European society as a whole, is unprecedented,” said Stuart Rowley, president, Ford of Europe. “Due to the dramatic impact this ongoing crisis is having on the European market and the supplier industry – together with the recent actions by countries to restrict all but essential travel and personal contact – we are temporarily halting production at our main continental Europe manufacturing sites.”

Volkswagen’s closures affect eight passenger car facilities in Germany, Slovakia, Spain and Portugal, as well as six component factories in Germany. It said the closures will be a gradual process beginning on Thursday, March 19 and all plants are expected to stay closed for at least two weeks.

Ralf Brandstätter, chief operation officer of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand, said: “The spread of coronavirus in Europe is increasingly having an adverse impact on the demand situation. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly difficult to supply our plants with outsourced parts. For this reason, we have decided to run production down in a coordinated way from the end of the late shift on Thursday. We are convinced that this will also be in the interests of our employees who are becoming increasingly concerned about the spread of corona.”