Mercedes-Benz South Africa plans to shut its East London production plant for four weeks next month and for a further four weeks from the last week in May, according to local reports, though it was not clear when in April the four-week shutdown would begin.

Business Report cited a production status note sent to all Mercedes-Benz suppliers saying it anticipated only operating the East London plant for four days a week in May, until the second four-week shutdown commences.

The company has already had two days without production this month, and plans to have another one on 3 April, Reuters reported.

A Mercedes-Benz spokeswoman told the newspaper the cut in production required a four-day closure before the Easter weekend, but current economic pressures required more than average flexibility in production planning.

Mercedes-Benz was in talks with the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa on possible additional shutdowns and ways to minimise the impact on employees, the reports said.

A Mercedes UK spokeswoman said the closures would have no effect here. South Africa was once the sole source of RHD C-class models but she said the UK was nowadays supplied from Germany.

The South African plant added LHD production in September 2007.