Joining a growing list of automakers, including — as of Wednesday — the Detroit Three, Nissan has announced it will cease production in the United States.
While an automaker with falling sales and bloated inventory isn’t likely to find itself in a car-less position when production resumes, those same elements spell nothing good for a company that was already in dire straits before the pandemic hit.
Production ends on March 20th, with the automaker’s four American plants (in Tennessee and Mississippi) not expected to come back online until April 6th.
“The company is taking this action to boost containment efforts where possible around the COVID-19 coronavirus,” the company said in a statement. “Currently, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 coronavirus at any Nissan facility. Areas deemed business-essential will operate with enhanced safety measures.”
On Wednesday, Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler announced temporary shutdowns of all U.S. assembly plants, with Honda joining the fray nearly at the same time.
Before coronavirus became a household word (and fear), Nissan found itself on the hunt for any and all cost-saving measures — everything from vastly reduced travel budgets to worker furloughs. Revamped models appeared with fewer trims and build configurations. The manual transmission is all but dead. While the automaker’s global sales suffered greatly over the past couple of years, North America remains a chief focus for newly minted CEO Makoto Uchida.
Uchida has stated that if he can’t reverse the company’s trajectory in short order, he’ll happily accept his termination. However, coronavirus represents a wrench thrown into the gears.
Last month, Nissan unveiled an earnings report that was anything but praiseworthy, slashing its profit forecast at the same time. The automaker’s U.S. sales fell 9.9 percent in the U.S. last year, with premium division Infiniti showing the larger customer exodus (more than 21 percent).
With COVID-19, at least Nissan can say it isn’t alone in its misery.