Fiat Chrysler, PSA Group end production at European plants due to coronavirus

Key Points
  • Fiat Chrysler is ending production at the majority of its European plants through March 27 due to the coronavirus.
  • The plans come less than a week after the Italian-American automaker announced it would "intensify measures" against the spread of the coronavirus in Italy.
  • The temporary shutdowns include plants in Italy, Serbia and Poland. It's unclear how many of the company's 23 plants will remain open.
A Jeep Renegade rolls down an assembly line at Fiat Chrysler's Melfi assembly plant in Italy in 2015.
Michael Wayland / CNBC

Automakers are shutting down manufacturing plants in Europe as the coronavirus spreads and brings many industries to a standstill.

French automaker PSA Group said Monday it is ceasing production at more than a dozen European plants this week, while Fiat Chrysler announced it is ending production at most of its European plants. Both companies, which are in the midst of a merger, said the shutdowns will be through March 27.

The shutdowns for Fiat Chrysler include plants in Italy, Serbia and Poland. It's unclear how many of the company's 23 plants will remain open. A company spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

The plans come less than a week after Fiat Chrysler announced it would "intensify measures" against the spread of the coronavirus in hard-hit Italy, including temporarily closing plants there, where the government has implemented a national quarantine amid a rapid spread of COVID-19.

PSA's shutdowns include plants in France, Germany, Portugal, United Kingdom, Slovakia and Spain.

Other automakers to shutter manufacturing operations in Italy include Ferrari and Lamborghini, a part of German automaker Volkswagen AG. Ford said Monday it extended a planned shutdown of its plant in Valencia, Spain, through this week. A company spokesman said its other European plants are operating as planned.  

In the U.S., Volkswagen confirmed that employees at the company's Chattanooga plant in Tennessee were granted paid leave Monday to make arrangements for childcare during a two-week school closure there. The German automaker also reportedly shut down factories in Italy and Spain, according to the Wall Street Journal. A company spokesman was not immediately available. 

Fiat Chrysler, in a release, said its plans include measures to enable the company to "promptly" restart manufacturing operations once ready.

"The group is working with its supply base and business partners to be ready to enable our manufacturing operations to deliver previously planned total levels of production despite the suspension when market demand returns," the company said.

Italy's coronavirus death rate jumps to more than 1,800

The European shutdowns come as the automaker and others attempt to contain the spread of the virus in the U.S., while continue to ramp-up production in China, where COVID-19 originated. 

Fiat Chrysler is the only automaker to confirm that a U.S. employee tested positive for COVID-19. It also had workers at one plant in Canada refuse to work due to fears an employee had contracted the disease.

The automaker is part of a new task force with the General Motors, Ford Motor and the United Auto Workers that was announced Sunday afternoon to combat the spread of the disease to factory workers.

UAW President Rory Gamble, GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra, Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford and President and CEO Jim Hackett, and Fiat Chrysler CEO Michael Manley are leading the task force, which will "implement enhanced protections for manufacturing and warehouse employees at all three companies."

Each of the Detroit automakers last week announced work-at-home policies for salaried employees in North America due to the coronavirus.