China starts to emerge from COVID-19 disruption

24 March 2020

24 March 2020

While much of Europe remains under special measures due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, there are some signs that China is returning to operations. Cases appear to be dropping, and carmakers are starting to open production lines again. Autovista Group Daily Brief editor Phil Curry rounds up some of the more positive stories emerging from the country.

China, the country where COVID-19 originated and the worst hit in terms of total infections, is now slowly starting to get business back to normal. There have been 81,171 confirmed cases; however, at the time of writing, only 4,735 of these are still active. This puts China below the UK, and tenth on the list of active cases. The first confirmed outbreak of COVID-19 was on 31 December 2019, meaning that in just under three months, the country has managed to turn the tide on infections.

In Italy, the number of cases increased by a smaller amount than previously for the second consecutive day on 23 March. The European country, currently labelled as the ‘epicentre’ of the infection by the World Health Organisation, has 63,927 confirmed cases, of which 50,418 are active. This is just 5,000 active cases ahead of the USA.

This pattern suggests that the spread of the infection is moving west and if we look at China, we can expect the initial disruption to business and services to last around three months from the first recorded case. Of course, this is dependent on a country’s approach to containing the spread, population and other factors. Yet, while a vaccine may be many months away, there is hope that normal activity can begin to get back on track in the next few months.

Back on track

Wuhan, considered to be the original epicentre of the outbreak, is planning to start lifting its lockdown this week.

Polestar has announced production of its Polestar 2, the company’s first battery-electric vehicle (BEV) has officially begun in Luqiao, China, with the first vehicles scheduled for delivery into Europe.

‘The world is facing enormous upheaval in the face of the coronavirus pandemic,’ comments Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath. ‘We start production now under these challenging circumstances with a strong focus on the health and safety of our people. This is a great achievement and the result of huge efforts from the staff in the factory and the team securing the supply chain. I have a huge amount of respect for the entire team – thanks to them!’

While Volvo will be shutting plants in Europe, the carmaker, owned by Geely Holdings, has also reopened its four manufacturing plants in China after an extended closure period. The company is also seeing showroom traffic beginning to return to normal in the country.

‘Our primary concerns are the health of our employees and the future of our business,’ said Håkan Samuelsson, chief executive. ‘With the help of valuable supporting programs put in place by governments and authorities, we have been able to act quickly.’

Special measures

Geely itself has been taking measures to ensure its workforce can remain safe and in good health as the company gets back to manufacturing normality.

‘Today, all employees entering into the headquarters must first undergo temperature testing on visual screens that highlight any hotspots – anyone with a fever must be sent to isolation, and medical teams alerted,’ the carmaker stated.

Hand-sanitiser stations have been placed around the company’s buildings, including beside lifts and doors, while face masks are being offered to employees every eight hours.

‘The same strict protocols have been rolled out to all of Geely’s facilities across China, where over 60,000 employees are working day-to-day,’ the company added. ‘To date, Geely has returned to full production with no cases of Coronavirus within Geely, showcasing that despite the strict measures in place we are working hard to stem the spread of the virus.

Timeline indicated

Daimler is starting to get its business in China up and running again. CEO Ola Källenius told German publication Handelsblatt that dealers are opening and customers are returning, making the company optimistic that things can return to normal and sales can start to increase.

‘With the New Year celebrations at the end of January, China had implemented sharp measures to curb the wave of infections,’ he said. ‘The country is five-to-six weeks ahead of the rest of the world. After a production stop, we can now start up again in a controlled manner. In a few weeks, we will be back to almost 100% running.’