VW’s SEAT Plant Could Be Shut for Weeks, Report Says

Volkswagen’s SEAT division, which produces vehicles for Europe and a number of other markets, plans to stop work on Monday, Reuters reports. A workers union leader told Reuters that the stoppage could last up to six weeks, while the country implements nationwide lockdown procedures. The stoppage itself is linked to component shortages, as well as the national lockdown.

The SEAT plant in Martorell, Spain, is the brand’s main production facility and builds about 2,100 vehicles per day—a car every 40 seconds. The plant employs approximately 7,000 workers.

SEAT’s Martorell plant will likely be the first major auto plant shutdown in the European Union outside of Italy; Ferrari and Lamborghini have already shuttered their plants in Italy, as have a number of suppliers. But with the coronavirus threat shifting to Spain, which has become the EU country with the second highest number of infection cases and deaths after Italy, the idling of the Martorell plant could be a preview of what’s to come for major European automakers in Germany, including parent company Volkswagen itself, as EU countries take greater measures to curb the epidemic by implementing lockdowns.

A week ago German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that as many as 70% of Germany’s residents could eventually become infected with the coronavirus, prompting fears of industry grinding to a halt in a matter of days. Germany closed its borders today with France, Switzerland and Austria, making an exception for commercial traffic. This buys the auto plants in Germany some time, unless a more stringent lockdown is ordered or if suppliers in neighboring countries come to a standstill sooner.

Spain will implement a 15-day lockdown starting on Monday, March 16, that will aim to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which has resulted in at least 7,000 instances of infections and the deaths of 288 people in the country.

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