Video: Automakers make push to reopen plants

Global automakers reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic are accelerating efforts to restart factories.

Editor’s note:
 The following is a transcript of the accompanying video. ©2020 Thomson Reuters

From Wuhan to Michigan, global automakers want to jump-start factories. Their plan is to use safety protocols developed for ventilator production operations launched in recent weeks.

Italian sports car maker Ferrari has said it will offer blood tests to employees who want to know if they have been exposed to the virus.

General Motors, though, says it's not convinced blood tests are useful. It's planning to use measures similar to those developed by Amazon to protect warehouse workers. These include temperature screening to catch employees with fevers before they enter the workplace.

GM has relaunched vehicle plants in China and kept factories running in South Korea. But it has not said when it will reopen assembly plants in the US.

Other automakers are naming dates, though, despite policymakers being wary of lifting lockdowns. In Europe, major brands have said they hope to begin building vehicles again in mid- to late April. In the US, Fiat Chrysler, Honda, and Toyota are aiming to restart production during the first week of May. That will be welcome news for American car parts factories, left idle amid the outbreak.

As the virus decimates car demand, Japan's Nissan is one to look vulnerable. Sources say it has requested a $4.6 billion credit line from major lenders to cushion the impact. The firm is trying to engineer a much-needed turnaround. Profits have fallen in recent months after years of aggressive expansion, as well as the scandal surrounding ousted leader Carlos Ghosn. A Nissan spokeswoman said the company had enough cash for its current operations but was looking at various options to prepare for a possible crisis.

A glimmer of hope coming from China, though. Officials there on Friday [10 April] said the car industry will recover. It came as executives from Mercedes-Benz and VW said demand is rebounding in China after lockdown restrictions were eased.