Nissan employees work on the assembly line at the company's Kyushu plant in Kanda town, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. Picture: REUTERS
Nissan employees work on the assembly line at the company's Kyushu plant in Kanda town, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. Picture: REUTERS

Nissan has become the first Japanese carmaker to halt production due to the Coronavirus’s affects just days after Hyundai and Kia did the same in South Korea, while some Chinese manufacturers have switched production to making facemasks.

Wuhan, where the Coronavirus originated, is the capital of the carmaking stronghold of Hubei Province, which is home to Dongfeng and a swarm of joint venture factories and supply operations.

Carmaker BYD has switched its production lines to face masks, along with iPhone maker Foxconn, as China declares a national emergency to combat the virus that has so far killed more than 1,000 people and turned Wuhan into a ghost town.

China has a capacity of 15-million masks a day and, with more than 5-billion last year, made more than half the world’s output last year.

GM’s joint venture, SAIC-GM, has built up 14 facemask production lines with a daily capacity of 1.7-million masks a day, while BYD is aiming for a daily capacity of 5-million, plus 50,000 bottles of disinfectant gel.

Nissan won’t be the last as other manufacturers warn of slowdowns, but it halted production this week at its Kyushu plant because of a shortage of parts from China.

Nissan’s production shortfall will be about 3,000 vehicles a day, according to Japanese newspaper Nikkei, with Kyushu’s two production lines grinding to a halt. Kyushu made 434,000 vehicles for Nissan in 2018, including the Note, Rogue and X-Trail, with half of those exported.

Hyundai and Kia have also suspended production at some of their Korean plants, Renault has shut down its Renault Samsung subsidiary’s production in South Korea and market leader Volkswagen has postponed its return to work after China’s national holidays.

So far the disruptions have been isolated to Asian manufacturers, but both Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Renault have warned that the trouble will inevitably migrate to Europe within a month.

Volkswagen is keeping its SAIC Volkswagen Automotiveplants in China closed for seven extra days until February 17, while its FAW-Volkswagen Automotive plants will remain closed until February 17.

Honda will restart its three Dongfeng joint venture Wuhan plants on February 13, while Nissan’s Dongfeng joint-venture operations will resume after February 14, as will PSA’s three Dongfeng joint-venture plants in Wuhan. Toyota’s 12 Chinese plants remain closed until February 16, while BMW will restart plants on February 17.