The covid-19 pandemic had a colossal effect on industry as a whole, and the motor manufacturing industry has been among the worst hit of all. With customers unable to visit showrooms and buy new cars, and health and safety concerns evident in factories, production was halted in just about all of the world’s motor manufacturers.
In the UK and elsewhere, lockdown restrictions are being eased with one eye on giving the economy a kick-start, and among the moves is government encouragement to get factories up and running once more, even if on a limited basis. Bentley Motors was among the first to resume production in the UK, but how close is it to ‘normal’?
Bentley Resumes Production
The famous Bentley Motors plant in Crewe resumed operations on May 11th, with a staff of 1700 beginning the process of gradually getting the plant back to capacity. The company has taken great care to safeguard those on site with a massive 250 new hygiene and social distancing procedures to adhere to – this has been implemented successfully – and revised shifts to help. Production began at 50% of standard in order to make things more efficient, and even the washrooms have undergone huge alterations.
Bentley is working under the banner ‘Come Back Stronger’ and as one of the leading lights in the UK manufacturing and engineering industry, is setting a standard that others will take interest in. Facemasks and other PPE are essential requirements of the new working practices, adding further protection. Chairman and CEO of Bentley Motors, Adrian Hallmark, explained:
“Now is the right time for the business to come back stronger. We have introduced extensive new working measures to protect our colleagues, our families and our customers and we are confident, following the work of so many people, that being at Bentley will be as safe for our colleagues as being anywhere else.
“We have a strong order bank, around eight months of customer orders to manufacture, established parts supply routes and patient customers who are looking to receive their extraordinary cars as soon as possible. We will ramp up in a controlled, measured way to ensure we manage this continued demand, and look ahead and in spite of this interruption continue on our journey to lead sustainable luxury mobility in the future.”
The remaining 500 Bentley employees are in line to return to work by the middle of June, with the company keeping in line with government guidelines.
Rolls-Royce Chooses May 4th
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars resumed production on a reduced scale at its iconic Goodwood plant on May 4th, a date with great significance for the company. It was on May 4th, 1904, that The Hon Charles Rolls and Henry Royce met in the Midland Hotel, Manchester, a meeting that led to the two men founding the company that became the manufacturer of the finest cars in the world, and arguably remains so. In respect of this, and the covid-19 pandemic, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, Torsten Muller-Otvos, explained:
“We are living through historic times. Our primary focus is, of course, on safely resuming production at The Home of Rolls-Royce in Goodwood, West Sussex; but in marking this amazing anniversary, we are taking a moment to reflect on what 116 years have taught us.”
He added, “As a company, we can draw strength from the knowledge that although Rolls-Royce has faced uncertainty many times over the years, it has emerged more resilient and confident, with its fundamental principles unaltered. Our present challenges may be unprecedented, but as we look to the future, I am confident there is no company in the world better prepared to overcome them.”
Notably, Rolls-Royce battled the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 – perhaps the most similar incident to today’s pandemic – as well as the two World Wars of the first half of the 20th century and remains as one of the greatest luxury brands in the world today.
Lamborghini – The Bull Rears Again
Italy suffered very badly in the early days of the pandemic in Europe, being forced to introduce strict lockdown rules that led to the temporary shutdown of many factories and other places of work. The great supercar makers were far from immune, with Lamborghini having to cease production of its product range.
The factory did not shut down entirely, as the Sant’Agata factory was repurposed to produce PPE equipment for the St Orsola Hospital in Bologna, and also specialist breathing equipment in a partnership with SIARE Engineering International Group. This rapid redeployment of resources has been of great help in the fight against covid-19, both in Italy, and in many similar partnerships in the automotive industry across the world.
Lamborghini began production in May 4th as Italy began to find its feet in the aftermath of what has been a harrowing time for residents, and as explained by Chairman and CEO Stefano Domenicali, the safety of the workforce is paramount:
“We are ready to restart with great energy, but also with strict protocols for safeguarding what is most precious to us: the safety of our people. This priority is why we were the first Italian automotive company to close and continues to be our guiding principle for a well-reasoned and safe recovery, because we still have not won the battle against COVID-19. We will constantly monitor the contagion’s evolution and be ready to adjust our protocols in accordance with the guidelines provided by the Italian government and the Emilia-Romagna Region, which we would like to thank for their support during this sensitive phase.”
Ferrari Gears Up for Production
Ferrari had been similarly affected by the pandemic, calling a halt not just to its road car production but also the Formula 1 racing factory. The sport has been in state of hiatus since the Australian Grand Prix – set to be the first of the season – was called off at the last minute and others around the world followed. Those in charge of the sport are currently working on a heavily revised and restricted calendar, due to begin shortly in Austria should the go-ahead be given.
The Ferrari road car factory resumed production on May 8th, with a number of training sessions having been implemented in order to enhance the importance of and adherence to new working practices. The factory duly hit full production starting from the date – the initiative labelled ‘Back On Track’ – with the first car off the line being a special edition Ferrari Monza SP2, set for a very lucky customer.
At Supercartribe we are not only happy to see the resumption of production at these and other motor manufacturers around the world, we also applaud them for providing the design, engineering and manufacturing where has been possible in the fight against the covid-19 pandemic, and acknowledge the fantastic help this has given the under-pressure medical teams across the world.