German automaker Volkswagen AG reopened its Wolfsburg manufacturing plant in northern Germany on Monday after a five-week coronavirus-imposed stoppage, the longest pause in the factory’s 82-year history.
Production capacity at Wolfsburg will be just 10 to 15 percent to begin with, and will reach around 40 percent of pre-crisis levels after about a week, Andreas Tostmann, the brand’s board member in charge of production told Reuters.
“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,” he said.
Under normal operations, the plant produced about 3,500 Volkswagen Golfs a day last year. A string of some 100 new safety measures have also been introduced into the production process and the assembly lines will move at half their usual speed. To begin with, only 8,000 of the plant’s 70,000 workers will begin the first shift.
Prompted by falling infection rates, Germany has eased lockdown rules and automakers are relying on the country’s ability to trace and contain new coronavirus cases to safely restore operations in Europe’s largest economy.
The first European plant of the Volkswagen group to reopen was the Győr plant in northwest Hungary, which rebooted production on April 14, just after the Easter holiday.
Volkswagen’s other factories in Portugal, Spain, Russia, South Africa, and the Czech Republic are also scheduled to open this week.
Press reports, however, question how much of the production car dealers will be able to soak up, as car sales are just about bottoming out and renewed demand is expected to be slow to pick up. The Volkswagen group also owns the Skoda, Audi, Bentley, Porsche, and Seat brands