Thu. Feb 20th, 2020

The coronavirus leaves the mid-engine sector

Ficosa, a company of engine components, reopened this Wednesday one of its two factories from China in a car environment still paralyzed since the end of January. “We open, but we are still in the diagnostic phase, evaluating on the one hand how many providers we can count on and, on the other, what volume of supply our customers need, ”explains Ignasi Castelló, general director of sales for the Catalan multinational.

Like most of the automotive companies, both car manufacturers and component companies, they have been forced to stop as a result of the coronavirus crisis and they are trying to regain normality, albeit very slowly. For example, J.Juan, which manufactures brakes and hydraulic brake tubes for motorcycles in China, managed to reopen on Monday, although only with about thirty of the 120 workers at its plant. “We are subject to strict security controls by the Chinese authorities, with inspections several times a day to rule out an outbreak of the virus”, Explained company sources. Even the general director of the Asian subsidiary, who had traveled to the Catalan capital taking advantage of the New Year’s holidays, has had to stay in Barcelona to meet the quarantine deadlines that have been implemented.

Supplies in doubt

J.Juan also returns to the activity, but with less than a third of the workforce

Also in Ficosa the sanitary measures are exhaustive, the temperature of all personnel is controlled and hygiene precautions have been extreme. The company, controlled by the Pujol family and the Japanese group Panasonic, has reopened the largest of its Chinese plants, located in Taicang, an hour from Shanghai, where more than 1,000 people work. The other, located in Shenyang and with 120 workers, could open tomorrow, Friday.

Hyundai cars at a plant in South Korea last week, affected by the lack of components

Hyundai cars at a plant in South Korea last week, affected by the lack of components

“It is early to assess the impact of this crisis,” says Ignasi Castelló, who admits that a reduction in orders from large automakers is expected. In China, Ficosa has among its multinational clients such as Volkswagen, Ford or General Motors, in addition to several Chinese brands. The Asian giant contributes approximately 13% of the company’s business (about 1.2 billion in the last year). There it manufactures traditional products, such as gear changes or gearbox controls, but also electronic products and related to the electric car. It is in the field of electronics where more supply problems have been detected.

The interruption of the supply chain has a global reach, and its impact will depend on the duration of the health crisis. But for now the effects on the automobile industry are limited to the Asian continent, where the plants work just in time With the pieces they receive from China. Hyundai and Renault have been forced to stop production in Korea, and Nissan in Japan.

Disinfection of a vehicle in Beijing

Disinfection of a vehicle in Beijing
(Kevin Frayer / Getty)

Nissan’s Barcelona plant also receives parts from China, but in their case shipments are made about two months in advance, so supply problems are not expected unless the pandemic takes on a dimension never seen before.

Neither in Seat in Martorell At the moment an affectation in the rhythm of activity is expected, although the evolution of the crisis is being followed very closely. Volkswagen, which is one of the first manufacturers in China, hopes to resume activity on the next 17th.

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