BMW to shut down European, South African Factories Over Coronavirus

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As the coronavirus continued to penetrate into countries across the globe, German carmaker BMW on Wednesday said it would close down European and South African factories accounting for half its output for a month, matching other car giants stricken by coronavirus containment measures.

It also warned that profits this year would be significantly lower as a result of the crisis.

“From today, we will shut down our European car factories and the Rosslyn factory in South Africa,” chief executive Oliver Zipse said, adding that the interruption is expected for now to last “until April 19”.

BMW’s factories around Europe — in Bavaria, elsewhere in Germany and further afield — combined with the South Africa plant accounted for half the 2.56 million cars the group built-in 2019.

Around Europe, other manufacturers including Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler, Volkswagen, Ford, Fiat, and Peugeot have also moved to shut factory doors through the coronavirus crisis.

“As for many goods, demand for cars will sink sharply” because of the virus and associated containment measures, BMW CEO Zipse said.

Workers at the Munich-based group benefit from “highly flexible and effective working-time tools” that can help cushion the impact, he added.

The German government has already simplified rules governing compensation for workers whose hours are slashed during the crisis.

BMW finance director Nicolas Peter said the group now expects pre-tax profits this year to be “significantly lower” than the 7.1 billion euros ($7.8 billion) reported in 2019.

“Measures related to the coronavirus will have a significant impact on the course of our business,” Peter said.

Juliet Ekwebelam

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