Nissan to close Barcelona plant, further slicing Spain’s steel demand

Japanese automaker Nissan has announced its intention to close its plant in Barcelona, Spain, after the COVID-19 pandemic halted production at the site and vehicle demand nosedived.

The company will close the plant as part of a global restructuring plan, it said Thursday, confirming press reports earlier this month.

Spain’s auto industry has been one of the worst hit by the industrial slowdown created by anti-pandemic measures.

In April, which saw a near-total shut-in of production up until last week, only 4,844 vehicles were assembled, a drop of 98% year on year, with exports falling by the same amount to just 3,753 units, according to the country’s vehicle association ANFAC.

The automotive sector is typically the second-biggest steel-consuming sector.

On a wider scale, Spanish steel output fell 48% year on year in April to less than 680,000 mt in the midst of the COVID-19 restrictions, according to an estimate published by industry association Unesid.

The decline in demand came from all sectors, but Unesid singled out the auto sector and the construction sector as the worst impacted.

The only sector which held up was sheet metal for packaging, particularly of food products, Unesid said.

The steel production figure was lower than a monthly minimum of 725,000 mt which came at the low point of the 2008 financial crisis, Unesid said, comparing it to recent seasonal minimums in July and December of 900,000 mt/month.

The steelmakers’ group also estimated a decline of 30% to 40% year on year in demand for long products, with no figure supplied.

Spain started lifting restrictions on industrial activity at the start of May, with most services back in place for June.

However, according to the country’s large industrial power consumer group AEGE, industrial productivity is still at only around 85% of pre-shutdown levels with the steel and auto sectors hit not only by shrinking demand, but also by high inventories.

Spain’s largest aluminum producer, Alcoa, is also proposing to reduce production and staff in the country, it said Thursday.

— Gianluca Baratti