Last week, Continental Japan hosted an induction ceremony — updated for the times — for 22 graduate students about to begin a 24-month training program with the company.
Practicing prudent social distancing, trainees were invited to the office, spaced out in a conference room and given face masks. Each trainee was assigned a work laptop and sent off to start the program for the first couple of weeks, mostly from home.
At press time, Continental's factory in Japan was still operating, but taking it day by day. Worldwide, some 40 percent of the supplier's production sites are down, and last week, the head office in Germany withdrew its earnings and sales outlook for the year over the uncertainty.
Continental AG said that in Germany alone, about 30,000 employees, or half of its work force, will be moving to reduced working hours. That may continue for six to 12 months, the company said.
In Japan, even if the government doesn't order workers to stay home in a bid to slow COVID-19 transmission, Continental may have to cut back or suspend production at its plant here anyway: Japanese customers are shutting down local assembly and don't need the parts.
"We have enough supply for our customers, but they don't need much anymore," Wolfram said, adding that it is hard to forecast which way the market or government guidelines will turn.
"There will certainly be an impact on the global production," he said. "But how long and how deep, nobody knows. Nobody really knows."