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OEMs describe state of replacement auto parts amid COVID-19 shutdowns

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Announcements | Business Practices | International | Market Trends | Repair Operations | Technology
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Though many automakers have announced factory shutdowns amid national COVID-19 coronavirus concerns, multiple OEMs reported replacement parts for body shops aren’t significantly affected.

So that’s good news for repairers and customers. However, shops should understand that the situation could evolve — possibly rapidly.

U.S. OEMs: FCA, Ford, GM, Tesla

A Detroit Free Press Friday report illustrates this possibility.

Ford on Wednesday said it would halt North America production after the Thursday evening shifts until March 30, but spokeswoman Kelli Felker told us “Our parts depots will remain open.”

FCA on Wednesday said it would close “starting progressively from today through the end of March,” but spokeswoman Jodi Tinson on Thursday evening told us parts distribution continued.

“The FCA Mopar parts distribution facilities are currently operating to provide support for our dealers and customers who rely on us for their repairs and maintenance,” she wrote in an email Thursday. “We are continuing to monitor the situation carefully and are taking all necessary precautions to safeguard the health and welfare of our workforce, including more frequent cleaning and disinfecting of all working areas.”

However, on Friday, the Detroit Free Press cited two unnamed sources to report “the UAW and General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have agreed to shut down all U.S. parts distribution centers at the end of business Friday.” The facilities would still operate with volunteer workers, according to the newspaper.

While we haven’t yet confirmed this for Ford, GM and FCA on Friday confirmed this would indeed be the case for its facilities.

“While today will be our last day of normal operations for GM Customer Care and Aftersales, GM and the UAW have reached an agreement that will allow us to continue delivering service and repair parts to our dealers and customers, including the police agencies, fire departments and emergency service providers who rely on our vehicles all over country,” GM said in a statement.

GM communications senior manager James Cain said the centers would be run by volunteers.

“These facilities will be staffed by hand-raisers,” he wrote in an email. “We will be working through staffing and scheduling plans to resume operations on Monday.”

GM on Wednesday had already said it would launch a “systematic orderly suspension” of North America manufacturing “until at least March 30. Production status will be reevaluated week-to-week after that.”

FCA on Friday issued the following statement:

Throughout this challenging period, FCA has been focused on enabling a stable supply of parts to our dealers to help keep our customers on the road. Be they first responders driving ambulances and fire trucks or commercial needs such as delivery and postal services, FCA and its dealers are working to keep all our customers operational. Following an agreement with the UAW, from Monday, March 23, FCA will begin operating our Mopar Parts Distribution Centers (PDC) using hourly-paid volunteers.

As with all our facilities, we have implemented an extensive program of cleaning and social distancing protocols across all our PDCs and we will continue to operate with the safety of our employees as a priority. Further, for any employee volunteering to work at our PDCs, we will ensure they are all equipped with gloves and masks. FCA and the UAW are proud to continue supporting our customers when they need our help the most.

Ford hasn’t yet responded to a Friday request for an update on their parts, nor has the United Auto Workers replied to a request to confirm the Free Press story.

Tesla on Thursday announced it would cease production at the end of day Monday.

“As such, we have decided to temporarily suspend production at our factory in Fremont, from end of day March 23, which will allow an orderly shutdown,” the company wrote in a news release. “Basic operations will continue in order to support our vehicle and energy service operations and charging infrastructure, as directed by the local, state and federal authorities. Our factory in New York will temporarily suspend production as well, except for those parts and supplies necessary for service, infrastructure and critical supply chains. Operations of our others facilities will continue, including Nevada and our service and Supercharging network.”

The OEM hasn’t yet responded to a Thursday request for more information on its replacement parts supply.

Asian OEMs: Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, Subaru

Honda on Wednesday said it would stop manufacturing in North America March 23-30, affecting about 40,000 vehicles.

“At this time, Honda’s six-day North American new vehicle production suspension is not expected to affect availability of Acura or Honda Genuine Replacement Parts,” spokesman Chris Martin wrote in an email Wednesday.

Hyundai suspended production at its Alabama plant Wednesday following an employee testing positive for COVID-19. The OEM said it will reopen when it was deemed safe.

“Currently the impact on parts availability is very minimal,” Hyundai spokesman Michael Stewart wrote in an email. “We don’t have a supply issue at this time with the exception of some select wire harnesses.

“There are no significant issues from suppliers from China and Korea either, and the China supply chain is recovering.”

It’s unclear if Kia has shut anything down. However, “(n)o parts shortages are planned or seen at this time,” corporate communications director James Bell wrote in an email Thursday.

Mazda North America President Jeff Guyton on March 13 encouraged all employees to work from home through the rest of the month and suspended all business travel.

Any impact on manufacturing in the U.S. or abroad was unclear, and Mazda has not yet responded to a Thursday request for information on replacement parts status.

Mitsubishi North America CEO Fred Diaz on Thursday said all Mitsubishi “headquarters and regional team members” were working remotely effective as of Monday.

“While working from home, the Mitsubishi Motors team is committed to continuing support for our many dealer partners across the United States, including providing them with additional guidance on cleaning and sanitizing their facilities,” Diaz wrote.

Mitsubishi communications senior director Jeremy Barnes on Friday described efforts to keep replacement parts distribution centers safe.

“I can tell you that we are doing everything we can to keep our parts distribution centers open, while ensuring the safety and well-being of our team members,” Barnes wrote in an email. “For example, we have designated a specific area where shipments are placed before a driver arrives to take them for final delivery.  Another team only loads and unloads.  And paperwork is kept in another secured area, where nothing is directly handed to another person.  At all times, we encourage the six-foot social distancing recommended by CDC, as well as regular hand-washing and sanitizing.

“Our goal is to minimize person-to-person contact as much as we possibly can, while still getting the important work done.  In other situations where team-members don’t need to be in an office or group environment, we have either encouraged or mandated they work from a home office.

“On a dealership basis, I cannot give you a blanket statement.  In some states, all non-essential businesses have been closed. In some of those states, service facilities have been carved out as essential, but not in all.  At this time, it’s a moving target, and we – like everyone else in the industry – are working closely with state and local officials to ensure we’re doing what we can to protect everyone, while still providing the crucial service and support our customers need in these uncertain times.”

Nissan in a post Wednesday announced it would suspend U.S. production March 20-April 6. “Areas deemed business-essential will operate with enhanced safety measures,” it wrote.

Spokeswoman Lloryn Love-Carter confirmed Friday that parts were considered “business-essential.”

“Our parts distribution centers continue to operate as they are deemed business-essential functions,” she wrote in an email. “We continue to monitor the situation and are ready to promptly react as necessary but have deployed measures to help ensure a healthy and safe environment for employees, including more frequent cleaning of hand-held tooling and high touchpoint areas; suspension of non-critical visitors; and frequent communication on recommended CDC hygiene practices.”

Toyota said Wednesday it would stop production in North American March 23-24. On Thursday, it said it wouldn’t restart production until April 6.

“Our service parts depots and vehicle logistics centers will continue to operate,” the OEM wrote in a Thursday news release.

“At this time, we have ample supply of replacement parts available in our pipeline to meet customer needs and we do not anticipate any impact due to the temporary production halt at our North American facilities,” Toyota spokesman Victor Vanov wrote in an email.

Subaru in a Thursday statement said it would close its Indiana plant for a week: “To further ensure the health and safety of associates and to adjust volume for market demand as a result of COVID-19, Subaru of Indiana Automotive (SIA) is suspending production, March 23-29. All associates will receive full pay during the one-week shutdown.”

“As it relates to availability of replacement parts, we do not expect the one-week shutdown to have a significant impact,” Subaru of Indiana communications and external relations manager Craig Koven wrote in an email Friday.

European OEMs: Audi, BMW, Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes, Porsche, Volkswagen, Volvo

Audi on Thursday said it would shutter its plants in “Ingolstadt, Neckarsulm, Belgium, Mexico and Hungary in a controlled manner by the end of this week.”

The company hasn’t yet responded to a Thursday inquiry about its U.S. operations or the status of replacement parts.

BMW this morning said its Spartanburg, S.C., factory remains in operation.

“As of this morning, Plant Spartanburg continues to be operational,” BMW corporate communications manager Phil DiInnani wrote in an email. “We will keep you updated on any new developments.”

Jaguar Land Rover on Friday said it would cease production “over the course of next week” in the United Kingdom.

“The company’s intention is to resume in the week of 20 April, subject to review of the rapidly-changing circumstances,” the company wrote in a news release.

“… Currently, Jaguar Land Rover’s manufacturing plants in Brazil and India continue operating. The company’s joint venture plant in China reopened in the week of 24 February, as life begins to get back to normal in the country.”

The company hasn’t yet responded to a Friday afternoon email inquiry about replacement parts.

Mercedes parent company Daimler on Tuesday said it would “suspend the majority of its production in Europe, as well as work in selected administrative departments, for an initial period of two weeks. …

“Connected to this is an assessment of global supply chains, which currently cannot be maintained to their full extent. An extension of this measure will depend on further developments. Wherever operations need to be continued, the company will take appropriate precautions to prevent the infection of its employees.”

“This is a dynamic situation which continues to evolve, and we are closely monitoring developments together with our dealer partners to ensure we are supporting our customers in a safe and responsible manner,” Mercedes said in a statement Wednesday when asked about parts. “In light of this, we will continue to make adjustments to our operations and communicate any relevant changes as needed.”

Porsche on Thursday said it would stop production for at least two weeks.

“As from the coming week, Porsche will suspend production for an initial period of two weeks,” Porsche wrote in a news release. “By taking this step, the sports car manufacturer is responding to the significant acceleration in the rate of infection caused by the coronavirus and the resultant measures implemented by the relevant authorities.

Volkswagen said Thursday it would shut down its Chattanooga, Tenn., plant for a week.

“Effective Saturday, March 21 at 3:45 a.m., Volkswagen Chattanooga will suspend production for one week, with current plans to resume production Sunday, March 29 at 10 p.m.” Volkswagen Chattanooga CEO Tom du Plessis said in a statement. “This action is being taken to help ensure the health and safety of our team members as we conduct additional sanitation and cleaning procedures throughout the factory. We will also use this time to assess future production plans and market developments.”

The Volkswagen Group on Tuesday said it would shut down Volkswagen Passenger Cars plants even longer in Europe.

“Initially, production facilities in Wolfsburg, Emden, Dresden, Osnabrück, Zwickau, Bratislava (Slovakia), Pamplona (Spain) and Palmela (Portugal) are affected, as well as the Components plants at Brunswick, Chemnitz, Hanover, Kassel, Salzgitter and SITECH,” the parent company wrote.

“… The Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand is gradually suspending production at its European plants. This will also affect Volkswagen Group Components plants. This is the brand’s response to the impending rapid decline in demand on the automotive markets. Risks in connection with suppliers’ supply chains are also increasing. This is due to the significantly accelerated rate of infection by coronavirus and the resulting measures taken by the authorities. Initially, the factories are therefore expected to remain closed for two weeks. For the affected German sites, the measures are to apply from the end of the late shift on Thursday.”

Works Council Chairman Bernd Osterloh noted in a statement that “Volkswagen has supply problems.”

Volkswagen hasn’t yet replied to an inquiry about any impact on replacement parts.

Volvo on Friday said it would shut down U.S. manufacturing in South Carolina as well as operations in Europe.

“The Belgium plant will remain closed until April 5,” Volvo wrote in an email. “The Swedish and US plants will be closed between March 26 and April 14.

“People working in our offices will generally work from home as of March 26 and working hours will be reduced.” Volvo said these offices were in Sweden and Belgium.

The company hasn’t yet responded to a Friday inquiry on the status of parts.

Like JLR, Volvo noted Chinese manufacturing had reopened.

“Earlier this month Volvo Cars reopened its four manufacturing plants in China after an extended closure period,” Volvo wrote. “Today´s showroom traffic is indicating a return to normal in China’s car market which is clearly demonstrating the advantages of being a globally balanced company.”

What might happen

CCC lead analyst and director Susanna Gotsch had described the impact of another automotive shutdown — the UAW’s GM strike in 2019 — in a Monday analysis of what the COVID-19 coronavirus issue could mean for body shops.

“A survey conducted by CollisionWeek at the time reported four out of five shops surveyed indicated they had seen GM parts’ delays,” Gotsch wrote. “However, only less than two in five of the GM vehicles needing repair were impacted and use of alternative no-OE parts enabled the shops to reduce the overall impact to vehicle delivery times. However, while the GM strike had a more immediate impact on the collision industry given the delay in replacement parts delivery, the coronavirus seems to be impacting the auto industry further upstream where parts are being interrupted for new vehicle manufacture. Additionally, while there were some short–term delays, overall industry-wide data reveals there was limited impact, in part due to the strike duration.”

More information:

“UAW, Detroit 3 to run parts distribution centers with paid volunteers only”

Detroit Free Press, March 20, 2020

“COVID19 – What It Might Mean For Our Industry”

CCC, March 16, 2020

Images:

A General Motors employee works at the brand-new ACDelco and GM Genuine Parts processing center in Burton, Mich., on Aug. 9, 2019. August 5, 2019 in the Flint, Michigan, suburb of Burton. GM says the facility would employ more than 800 and process as many as 120 million service parts annually. (Jeffrey Sauger/for General Motors)

FCA CEO Mike Manley visits the company’s Sterling Heights, Mich., factory on March 17, 2020. meets with workers at the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, on Tuesday, March 17. The company announced March 18 that it would close plants because of COVID-19 coronavirus concerns. (Provided by FCA)

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama is seen. (Provided by Hyundai)

The Lafayette, Ind., Subaru plant is shown. (Provided by Subaru)

A Porsche plant in Stuttgart, Germany, is shown. (Provided by Porsche)

Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tenn., factory is shown. (Provided by Volkswagen)

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