Italian auto suppliers eager to resume production before 4 May

As coronavirus lockdowns across the continent begin to ease and the European car industry is preparing to restart its engines, automotive suppliers in Italy do not want to be left behind, dpa reported. China-owned Volvo Cars and Germany's Volkswagen Group, the market leader in Europe, are among the manufacturers who have announced plant reopenings in the coming days.

But in Italy, the initial epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, the government has signalled that the economy will reopen gradually only after 3 May, despite industry calls for an earlier restart. "We are ready to restart on 4 May, but in fact it would really be necessary to do it earlier," Marco Stella, head of the components branch of the Italian Association of the Automotive Industry (ANFIA), told dpa. While the bulk of the European car industry is aiming to revive production in early May, auto parts suppliers need a head start to deliver their products in time for the assembly line, Stella said.

He is also chief executive of DTS, a maker of exhaust and fuel systems for high performance cars, and one of the vice presidents of CLEPA, the European Association of Automotive Suppliers. DTS is based in the heart of Italy's so-called Motor Valley in the northern Emilia-Romagna region. Its headquarters are in Maranello, which is also home to Ferrari. The famous prancing horse marque is one of DTS' top clients, alongside other supercar brands such as McLaren, Aston Martin and VW-owned Bugatti and Lamborghini.

Earlier this week, Italian daily La Repubblica reported that the restart of car production in Germany could be at risk if the supply chain from Italy does not resume promptly. But a German auto industry expert, Professor Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer from the Institute for Customer Insight at the University of St Gallen in Switzerland noted that carmarkers usually "have at least two suppliers for a component."

According to Stella, exports to Germany accounted for nearly 10% of the Italian car component industry's 50 billion euro turnover last year.

The coronavirus pandemic has struck the European car industry at a time when the sector was already going through a difficult transition. Manufacturers have for a while been under pressure from ever-tighter emission standards and the cost of new investment in technologies for hybrid, electric and self-driving vehicles.

Now experts expect mergers and predict hard times for Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, Peugeot-Citroen-Opel, Renault and Jaguar-Land Rover.


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