German carmaker Volkswagen has announced it is preparing to temporarily shut down most of its European plants in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Chief Executive Herbert Diess said the company would shut down production at factories operated by the group's brands "in the near future," with most European plants set to suspend work for at least two weeks.
Production at Volkswagen plants in Spain, Slovakia and Italy would all be halted before the end of the week, Diess added.
It comes shortly after the world's largest carmaker by sales warned 2020 would be a "very difficult year," with the coronavirus outbreak posing "unknown operational and financial challenges."
As of Tuesday, more than 182,000 cases of the coronavirus have been reported worldwide, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, with 7,155 deaths.
Last week, the WHO recognized Europe as the epicenter of the outbreak, with many countries ushering in lockdown measures in an effort to contain the spread.
Italy has recorded the most cases of COVID-19 in Europe, with nearly 28,000 confirmed infections and 2,158 deaths nationwide.
"The spread of coronavirus is currently impacting the global economy. It is uncertain how severely or for how long this will also affect the Volkswagen Group," Frank Witter, chief financial officer at Volkswagen, said in a statement Tuesday.
"Currently, it is almost impossible to make a reliable forecast. We are making full use of all measures in task force mode to support our employees and their families and to stabilize our business," he added.
Shares of Volkswagen were 0.5% higher during mid-morning deals.