Bentley has finally announced that it will stop production due to the coronavirus outbreak, one of the final automakers in Britain to announce such a closure. The suspension will start from the end of Friday till April 20, or one month.

Despite parent company Volkswagen saying on Tuesday that it would be closing factories across Europe, Bentley’s Crewe base has continued operations so far. The luxury brand, which makes around 11,000 vehicles per annum and employs around 4,500 people, said the move was to protect the health of its staff and declining demand in some markets.

“We were all set up for a gangbusters 2020, the first two months of the year have been very strong, and then the coronavirus hits us. Any ideas of glory and big profits that we had have been tempered significantly but having said that, we really don’t know how it’s going to play out,” boss Adrian Hallmark told Reuters.

Bentley, which bounced back to profitability last year after a difficult 2018, said it expected to see a sales drop in every market. In China, demand was down 50% against expectations last month, but was returning to the expected level in March.

On another note, the UK government has asked manufacturers if they could help with the design and production of ventilators, and Bentley is open to the task. Ventilators are crucial to aid breathing in severe Covid-19 cases. The novel coronavirus, which has no cure at present, attacks the respiratory system.

“It’s been a very high level question, and the question was: we’ve got 1,000 engineers – could we dedicate a number of them with requisite skills and experience to be able to help to do some of the development work and industrial engineering?” said Hallmark, likening it to Bentley’s factory building engines for Britain’s fighter planes in World War Two.

“I like to remember that in just two years, the Spitfire engine went from 1,500 to 2,700 horsepower. When needs must, we can perform and I’m sure the same would be true for ventilators, if we were given the right brief and opportunity to do so,” he said.

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