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Honda pauses Indian auto production amid virus surge

Shutdown at Rajasthan plant follows motorcycle manufacturing stoppage

Honda Motor closed its Uttar Pradesh auto plant in December, consolidating production at a single facility in Rajasthan.   © Reuters

MUMBAI -- Honda Motor suspended auto manufacturing operations in India on Friday, broadening a production shutdown in the country as a massive coronavirus outbreak shows no sign of abating.

The Japanese automaker moved up planned maintenance at its plant in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, which will remain shut down until May 18. The company already had halted motorcycle manufacturing at its Indian facilities from May 1 to May 15 to curb the spread of the virus.

The decision comes as infections nationwide continue to surge at a record pace, with the health ministry on Friday reporting 414,188 cases over the preceding 24 hours. Many areas have imposed lockdowns, and the government last month barred the supply of oxygen to most industries to alleviate a dire shortage in the medical sector.

The oxygen cutoff also spurred Suzuki Motor to shut down auto plants here and conduct maintenance originally set for June.

Honda's Rajasthan facility can churn out up to 180,000 vehicles per year. The company consolidated its Indian auto manufacturing operations there in December, closing its other plant in Uttar Pradesh.

More than half of Honda's nonlocal staff in India had returned to their home countries by Friday, the automaker said. Toyota Motor also has encouraged its roughly 40 expatriate workers here to leave the country, though how many have chosen to do so has not been revealed.

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