FILE PHOTO: Employees leave the Volkswagen (VW) plant as the company will temporarily close its factories in Mexico amid growing worries over the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Puebla, Mexico March 29, 2020. REUTERS/Imelda Medina/File Photo
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican auto industry groups on Sunday urged the governor of the state of Puebla to allow a gradual restart of operations after economic activity was curbed to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Puebla, where Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) and its luxury brand unit Audi (NSUG.DE) have major plants, said on Friday conditions “do not exist” yet for the auto industry to restart activity, while carmakers with plants in other states have signalled they are being allowed to reopen.
Mexico has 68,620 confirmed coronavirus infections, 2,082 of which were registered in Puebla. Health officials have reported a nationwide death toll of 7,394.
The automotive industry represents 3.8% of Mexico’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 20.5% of its manufacturing GDP while also being a major employer, five industry groups said in a joint letter to Puebla Governor Miguel Barbosa.
In the letter, they asked to “be allowed to start the preparation, cleaning and planning of our plants as soon as possible, in order to start gradually and staggered, the production of vehicles, auto parts, marketing and the entire value chain”.
The four auto groups as well as a broader industry association said their members would take precautions to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, and vowed to implement “the highest and strictest sanitary controls”.
Barbosa, an ally of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, said on Friday that he wanted to reopen the state’s economy “but not at the cost of the lives of the people of Puebla.”
In contrast, General Motors Co (GM.N) said on Thursday it was gradually restarting facilities at Ramos Arizpe in the northern state of Coahuila, and Silao in the central state of Guanajuato, while U.S. auto parts maker Lear Corp (LEA.N) also geared up for production.
Reporting by Sharay Angulo; Writing by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Edwina Gibbs