Car manufacturers can barely cope: what happens to production because of the war

European carmakers are struggling to replace Ukrainian parts, such as wire harnesses.

Volkswagen Group and BMW are among the carmakers struggling to find alternative sources of vital parts made in Ukraine from as far away as China and Mexico, as the Russian invasion halts assembly lines and breaks complex supply chains.

Fights in Ukraine have now disrupted the production of wire harnesses, which collect up to 5 km of cables in an average car. Unique for each model, vehicles cannot be built without them.

As a result, VW and BMW have reduced production and temporarily shut down some assembly lines, while Mercedes-Benz is adjusting shift scheduling at the Sindelfingen plant near Stuttgart, which is building its S-Class top sedan and EQS electric sedan.

The VW Group’s premium brand, Audi, said the entire group is working for major suppliers to relocate their wiring harness from Ukraine to other factories or to find alternative suppliers. The search includes Eastern Europe, North Africa, Mexico and “possibly” China, they say.

“For years we have been working successfully with various suppliers in these regions for our models,” said Audi. “It is possible, for example, for suppliers to divide production into several locations.”

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BMW also said it was in “intense discussions” with suppliers to find alternative sources for parts, while Stellantis said it had already moved its supply from Ukraine to other parts of Europe, refusing to say where.

Nick Klein, vice president of global logistics firm OEC Group, said that carmakers based in Ukraine will have to move fast.

“We will have to order well in advance, because there will be delays, and car manufacturers will compete with each other for the same sources,” said Klein, who specializes in automotive logistics.

War makes production difficult

Western Ukraine, with its cheap, highly skilled labor and proximity to car factories in Europe and plenty of raw materials, has become a major production center for wiring, with Fujikura in Japan and Nexans in France among the producers. there.

Some producers, such as Fujikura, have completely suspended Ukrainian production from the invasion, while others operate at low capacity.

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Moving production to factories in other low-cost markets with a vibrant wire harness industry, such as Romania, Serbia or Tunisia, requires the purchase of new equipment to increase capacity, which could take months to install.

Some Ukrainian wiring manufacturers, such as Kromberg & Schubert, Yazaki and Leoni in Japan, already have alternative factories in other countries.

There is still a supply filter in Ukraine. A western cabling maker, speaking on condition of anonymity over concerns for worker safety, said some production continues during the day, although it is closed at night due to access.

Some truck companies are transporting wire harnesses to the south, across the border, in Romania, as the fighting has not yet reached the region, Klein told OEC Group. That could change soon.

In the face of a “tangled” global supply chain, European carmakers need as many sources of parts as possible, Klein said.

“At the moment, we can’t have enough suppliers and we can’t have enough transport partners, because of the climate we are in.”

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