Auto plants in Maharashtra scale down operations to align with guidelines

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On Day One of the lockdown announced by the Maharashtra Government, it wasn’t business as usual for automobile manufacturing units in the State. Confusion prevailed over regulations—what is allowed and what isn't.  While some units ran with less than half the workforce, others sought clarity from the government on what is permissible and what isn't.

The State accounts for close to 20 per cent of the total vehicle production and is home to manufacturers like Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra, Bajaj Auto, Force Motors, Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen. It is also a critical auto parts hub for for vehicle manufacturers outside Maharashtra. The lockdown is estmated to crimp monthly output by 30-40 per cent.

Officials at most firms said they have scaled down operations and are complying with the “Break the Chain’ guidelines and adhering to safety protocols, distancing norms and hygiene standards. They are also actively collaborating with the health officials to inoculate eligible employees.  

"Tata Motors is running operations at its Pune plant in strict compliance with the guidelines mentioned in the order of the Maharashtra government,” said a company spokesperson adding that the company has begun the vaccination drive in collaboration with local health authorities for its employees who are 45 and above.

Rajeshwar Tripathi, Chief Human Resources Officer, Automotive and Farm Sectors, Mahindra & Mahindra, said all of the company’s plants are operational “with lower levels of manning and following strict adherence to social distancing, hygiene protocols and safety, including compulsory testing for Covid at the plant and maintaining high standards of safety for our associates.” All its offices in Maharashtra remain closed.

Mahindra is bearing the cost of inoculating its associates and their spouses, eligible as per the government norms, Tripathi said. So far, over 90 per cent of its eligible workforce, including temporary and contractual associates, have been vaccinated, he added. Mahindra has also set up company maintained quarantine centres for its associates at hotspots like Mumbai and Pune and is providing for complete medical assistance where required, said Tripathi.

The lockdown is likely to hit overall production for the month by 30-40 per cent,” said an official at a large auto component maker. “We are hoping to achieve 60-70 per cent of what was originally planned for the month,” he said. The company counts most automakers including car market leader as its customer.  Today being the first day, there was lot of confusion he said. Amid the rising cases, the suppliers and automakers saw the lockdown coming and are better prepared this time, he added.  Given the uncertainties, automakers have stopped short of giving a revised production schedule for the month, he said.

A Mercedes Benz India spokesperson said the company will be operating its manufacturing facility with “reduced capacity and limited workforce,” which is required for its process continuity and within the framework of the guidelines issued by the government. “The company continues to strictly adhere to all the mandated health and safety measures,” the spokesperson added.

A top official at the Volkswagen Group said the company is seeking further clarity from the government on what is permitted and what is not.

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