Car companies are slowly starting to build cars again.
Car companies around the world are beginning to get back to building cars this week after a strict coronavirus lockdown. The latest is Ferrari, which will be at full strength, albeit with masked, socially distant workers, from Friday May 8th after the seven-week shutdown – the longest-ever production break in Ferrari’s history.
Other luxury car companies are leading a return to work, all in line with the new health and safety regulations. Rolls-Royce restarted production at Goodwood on Monday May 4th – the day 116 years ago that Charles Rolls and Henry Royce first met.
Bentley begins a phased return to production on Monday May 11th with 250 new hygiene and social distancing processes in place. The firm says they amount to the biggest change to daily working life in the company’s 100-year history. Bentley has redesigned the Crewe assembly plant to allow a two-metre distance between workers, all of whom must wear face masks.
PSA group companies plus Škoda and Seat are others that have revealed recent back-to-work plans. During the shutdown some car companies have turned their hand to making personal protection equipment.
New figures show just how hammered the motor industry has been by the COVID-19 pandemic. Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show an unprecedented 97 per cent fall in UK new car registrations in April, with SMMT now expecting a total new car market this year of 1.68 million, the lowest since 1992.
The decline is in line with similar falls across Europe, with France down 88.8 per cent and the Italian market falling 97.5 per cent in April. The sales drops follow a massive hit to global new car production, down 39 per cent in March, with Europe the worst hit at 52 per cent down.
Industry bodies are calling on the motor sector to be in the first wave of reopenings to get economies going again. Various surveys this week reveal new-car buying intentions remain strong. Order books are reopening and several companies are introducing new online or remote buying options. Jaguar Land Rover has opened “virtual showrooms” on its website where buyers can browse, build and order online from the safety of their own homes. Part exchange valuations, finance quotes, finance applications and online reservations can all be handled online, says JLR.