Honda restarts production at Wuhan plant at center of outbreak
By Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press
Tribune Content Agency|
Mar 13, 2020 | 5:16 PM
Providing a glimpse of normalcy for an auto industry and world gripped by fear of the coronavirus, Honda Motor’s car assembly plant in Wuhan, China — the city at the epicenter of the global pandemic — resumed production Wednesday, the day President Donald Trump announced U.S. actions, including a ban on travel from Europe.
The assembly plant, which built 791,518 vehicles last year, shut down for the annual Chinese spring holiday Jan. 23. Scheduled to reopen Feb. 3, the plant was closed indefinitely when the Chinese government sealed off Hubei province to control the virus’ spread.
“This is important, good news,” said Eric Noble of consultant The Carlab in Orange, California. “Never underestimate the resiliency of the auto industry.”
Honda’s joint venture with local automaker Dongfeng Honda Automobile Co. Ltd. employs 12,000. With a population of 11 million, Wuhan is Hubei’s capitol and largest city.
Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan on Tuesday to reinforce the idea that the pandemic is under control, a position possibly undermined by the fact that Xi and his retinue wore masks.
Honda production “resumed with limited volume after a long suspension and may take time to recover to full” output, a spokesman said.
None of the plant’s production is sold in the United States. It builds vehicles including the CR-V, Civic, Inspire, VR-X, XR-V and Jade.
The plant’s five-week shutdown, and reopening while coronavirus remains at large in Wuhan, shows concrete evidence of how automakers and other industries can respond to the worst outbreak of coronavirus thus far.