Ford follows VW, PSA, and others in temporarily closing most European factories

Three of its factories will grind to a halt on March 19

Ford announced it will temporarily close its main manufacturing sites in Europe in response to the fast-spreading coronavirus. Two factories in Germany and one in Romania will go offline starting on March 19.

The company explained it decided to send home its workers after the World Health Organization (WHO) labeled Europe as the disease's new epicenter. Ford wrote the shutdown could continue "for a number of weeks," though it didn't provide a more specific timeframe. It ultimately depends on how long it takes to contain the coronavirus.

Plants in Cologne and Saarlouis, Germany, and Craiova, Romania, are scheduled to close for an undetermined period. The facility in Valencia, Spain, that manufactures models like the Transit Connect and the Mondeo (which is sold as the Fusion in the United States) has been idle since three workers tested positive for coronavirus on March 16. The company noted that only essential activities, like maintenance and security, will continue to ensure the empty factories don't become giant skate parks or a looter's paradise in a few days' time.

Autocar learned Ford's factories in Bridgend and Dagenham, England, will remain open, somewhat surprisingly. They'll continue to build vehicle components, including engines, but they might also begin manufacturing ventilators for the country's National Health Service (NHS). Government officials are asking automakers like Ford, Honda, and Rolls-Royce to help build medical equipment, a scenario eerily reminiscent of the two world wars.

We've reached out to Ford in the United States to learn whether the shutdown will affect its American supply of new vehicles. Most of the cars built in Europe stay there, but there is one exception: the Transit Connect.

Ford isn't the only automaker whose back is against the wall as it copes with the coronavirus. Volkswagen announced it will close most of its factories in Europe, though it also revealed its plants in China — where the virus originated — are resuming production after a long hiatus. Nissan suspended production at its Sunderland, England, plant. PSA, FCA, Ferrari, Renault and Daimler already closed the majority of their European plants for the same reason. In the United States, Tesla has strangely been declared an "essential business" so its Fremont, California, facility will remain open even as the San Francisco area it's in endures a three-week lockdown.

Update: Daimler has also announced it will be closing its European production facilities for at least two weeks. This applies to all car, van and commercial factories. The text has been updated to include Daimler as a plant that has closed factories in Europe.

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