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Bentley to close Crewe factory for 4 weeks
Peter Campbell reports from London
Bentley will close its factory in Crewe for four weeks, as the luxury carmaker becomes the latest group to shutter its facilities in the wake of coronavirus.
Chief executive Adrian Hallmark told the FT the company had enough parts to carry on making vehicles until a planned Easter break in three weeks, but that it had taken a “balanced view” and will shut the site from Friday.
“We have taken a pragmatic view of the scenarios based around ever increasing risk of coronavirus,” he said.
The closure, and the time it takes to revamp operations once it does open, will make a financial impact on the brand that last year clawed its way back to a profit of £65m, compared to a loss of £288m the year before.
However, Mr Hallmark said the company cannot calculate the impact of the virus, particularly if the shutdown stretches beyond four weeks.
“It would be very bold to predict what happens for the rest of the year,” he said. The “uncertainty is so high it’s ridiculous.”
He said the brand will pay its staff during the closure, a wage bill that runs into the tens of millions for the four weeks.
“We are not going to leave people high and dry and short,” he said, but added that the company is in talks with unions about the exact package.
Bentley has around 4,500 workers, including 1,900 who work on its assembly line hand-making luxury vehicles.
Parent company Volkswagen said earlier in the week it was preparing to shut all European production facilities.
A wave of closures has left almost no car plants open in Europe. Kia on Thursday said it would close its Slovakian plant, a day after sister group Hyundai announced the closure of its facility in the Czech Republic.
Only Jaguar Land Rover and Volvo Cars have so far avoided closing their home plants in the UK and Sweden respectively, though both have shut European facilities outside of their home market.