BMW, VW among automakers restarting European production as lockdowns ease

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MUNICH — BMW and Volkswagen are among European automakers rebooting their car factories to take advantage of easing coronavirus lockdown rules.

VW restarted production at its home plant in Wolfsburg on Monday, while BMW is cranking up engine manufacturing, also starting Monday.

BMW, VW and Daimler, are banking on Germany’s ability to trace and contain the coronavirus, and a healthcare system capable of extensive testing to identify possible carriers of the disease.

Production capacity in the Wolfsburg plant will be at around 10 per cent to 15 percent to begin with, and reach around 40 percent of pre-crisis levels in the week after, said Andreas Tostmann, VW brand’s board member responsible for production.

“The restart of Europe’s biggest car factory after weeks of standstill is an important symbol for our employees, our dealers, suppliers, the German economy and for Europe,” Tostmann said.

VW builds the Golf compact hatchback in Wolfsburg. This week 1,400 cars will be built, followed by 6,000 cars in a fortnight, VW said.

VW has overhauled its procedures to include extra hygiene measures. Workers are told to measure their temperature and to get changed into their overalls at home, to prevent crowding in factory changing rooms. Extra markings have been put on the factory floor so that workers are better able to adhere to a 1.5 meter social distancing rule, and extra time is provided so that employees can disinfect their tools and surfaces, VW said.

VW resumed production of its battery-powered ID3 hatchback on Thursday. Deliveries of the ID3  are due to start in Europe in the summer. It’s a key launch for VW as the first vehicle in its new generation of affordable, long-range electric cars. The automaker’s factory in Bratislava, which builds Porsche, VW and Audi large utility vehicles and minicars, also reopened on Thursday.

Encouraged by a fall in infection rates, Germany has allowed small retail stores, including car dealerships, to reopen, provided they adhere to strict distancing and hygiene rules. VW said about 70 percent of its dealerships in Germany had re-opened.

VW’s other plants in Germany and in Portugal, Spain, and Russia will restart production after April 27, the automaker said in a news release. Its U.S. plant in Tennessee is scheduled to re-open May 3.Through May, production will be resumed successively in South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, VW said.

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Saurabh Shukla

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