- Government had put a ban on use of liquid oxygen for industrial use on April 25
- At least five major automobile companies -- Hero MotoCorp, Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India and Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, MG Motor and Toyota Kirloskar Motor Ltd are shutting their factories
- Oxygen is widely used by automotive component industry that supplies parts to these firms
- Other firms are monitoring the situation and may have to shut down plants as well
The country may not be under a full lockdown right now as there are no direct curbs on most industrial activity but a ban put on liquid oxygen for industrial use last weekend is beginning to impact production in automobile factories.
On Thursday, Japanese two wheeler maker Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India said it has decided to advance its annual maintenance shutdown in all its four factories to the first half of May. Honda has factories in Manesar in Haryana, Tapukara in Rajasthan, Narsapur in Karnataka and Vithalapur in Gujarat.
"Honda will utilise this temporary production halt (1st May to 15th May, 2021) for advancing its annual plant maintenance activities. Depending upon the evolving COVID-19 situation & the market recovery, Honda shall be reviewing its production plan in the subsequent months," the company said in a statement. "Parallelly to effectively break the Chain, all Honda office associates will continue to Work-From-Home to maintain business continuity while extending all possible support to customers & business partners. Only the essential staff will be working at all our plants and various offices across the country," it said.
On Wednesday, India's largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki India Ltd had also similarly advanced its annual maintenance shutdown from June to May 1-9th. The shutdown includes Suzuki's factory in Gujarat. Maruti said it wanted to make all the oxygen available for medical use in light of the acute shortage being faced in the country.
"We ourselves do not use oxygen so much in our factories. But our component suppliers are big consumers," Chairman RC Bhargava had said at the company's Q4 result announcement on Tuesday. "Production can only happen when all of us are able to work to our capacities. So, we have to keep a watch on what happens to this oxygen situation as we go forward and take decisions accordingly," said Bhargava.
Similarly, Toyota Kirloskar Motor Ltd had announced that it will also carry out annual maintenance at its two factories in Bidadi on the outskirts of Bengaluru between April 26 and May 14. MG Motor, which has a manufacturing unit at Halol in Gujarat also said it is shutting it down for 7 days to help break the chain of COVID-19.
"We have decided to close our plant in Halol at Vadodra for seven days to break the chain of COVID-19," Rajeev Chaba, president and managing director, MG Motor tweeted on Tuesday. "And our employees are committing to stay safe AND take care of community in these harsh times. May there be more force with us!" said Chaba.
The first company to announce a staggered shut down at its factories, even before the ban on use of oxygen came to effect, was country's largest two wheeler maker Hero MotoCorp. On April 20, the company had announced that it will shut each of its factories for four days between April 22 and May 1.
"It's like an undeclared lockdown. If we cannot use oxygen then the plant cannot run and production will not happen," said a floor manager at one of the component units in Gurgaon whose company shut the factory on Monday. "Till such time the ban is not lifted, we will remain shut. Hopefully, it won't be more than a fortnight but nobody knows for sure," he said.