SOFIA (Bulgaria), March 26 (SeeNews) - The Bulgarian units of German vehicle access systems manufacturer WITTE Automotive and French auto parts manufacturer Montupet will suspend operations due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the Bulgarian machine building industry chamber (BBCMB) said on Thursday.
Montupet's Bulgarian unit, based in the city of Ruse, on the Danube, initially planned to suspend operations from April 6 to April 10 but has decided to do so starting March 30, the chamber said in a statement.
WITTE Automotive Bulgaria, also based in Ruse, has put on leave 30% of its employees in the period March 16-March 20 and a further 30% between March 23 and March 27, BBCMB said.
WITTE Automotive's local unit will suspend manufacturing activities for two weeks starting March 30 due to the halt in production at European car manufacturers and suppliers and the company's inability to ensure the health safety of its employees.
The company is also worried that competitors are highely likely to take its place in the supply chain, as Chinese sub-suppliers are restoring their production activity and sub-supplierts from Mexico have not stopped operating since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.
Last year, WITTE Automotive Bulgaria finalised the expansion of its plant in Ruse - a project worth over 20 million levs ($11.4 million/10.2 million euro). The expansion of the plant opened some 350 new jobs, increasing the company's total headcount to over 1300. The company expects to achieve a 180 million euro turnover by 2022 on the back of the expansion of the manufacturing facilities, it said at the time.
Earlier this week, Japanese automotive parts manufacturer Yazaki said that it is suspending production activities at its plants in the Bulgarian towns of Dimitrovgrad, Sliven and Yambol until April 5 over the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country. The suspension affects around 2,470 employees in Dimitrovgrad and around 2,000 in Sliven and Yambol, the company said back then.
According to BBCMB, car parts suppliers are in a complicated situation as car manufacturers across Europe are suspending operations. Furthermore, suppliers cannot provide the appropriate safe working conditions for their employees in the context of the pandemic.
As of Thursday, there were 264 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria, including three deaths related to the disease as well as eight recoveries. Bulgaria is currently in a state of emergency over the infectious disease outbreak.
(1 euro = 1.95583 levs)