Volkswagen Lays Out Timing for Global Restart
Vehicle production is a complex juggling act at the best of times, but industry-shuttering viral pandemics that sweep the globe in a matter of weeks can complicate the process. And aside from its joint-venture operations in China, Volkswagen finds itself, like other automakers, shut out of the business of building cars.
Perhaps ambitiously, the automaker aims to be back online, cranking out cars in the U.S. and Europe by the end of the month.
Other automakers doing business in the U.S. aim to resume production in the first or second week of May, but VW is ready to get to it. The automaker insists it’s not rushing into the restart, citing its newly crafted 100-point safety plan.
Under the phased restart, VW would open up two key European plants first, on April 20th. Those facilities are the German Zwickau and Slovakian Bratislava plants, builders of the automaker’s ID-badged electric vehicles and its large premium crossovers, respectively. (Germany has managed to get a handle on the coronavirus, cautiously announcing a limited return to normal civic life this week.)
One week later, on the 27th, VW plans to throw open the doors throughout the rest of Europe, as well as at its Chattanooga, TN facility, home of the Atlas crossover variants and the Passat sedan. Locales like Africa, Latin America, and Mexico will come online “successively” through the month of May, the company said.
“Volkswagen has prepared intensively for these steps over the past three weeks,” said VW brand chief operating officer Ralf Brandstätter in a statement. “In addition to developing a comprehensive catalogue of measures for the protection of our employees’ health, we have also forged ahead with the re-establishment of our supply chains.”
Aiding that effort are components plants in Germany and Poland that started production beginning on April 6th.
Bernd Osterloh, chairman of the automaker’s works council, claims the health protocol to be enacted at VW plants will set the standard for the industry.
“With about 100 measures, we are keeping the risk of infection at Volkswagen as low as possible,” he said in a statement, adding, “But we need to be realistic: at the beginning, the new procedures will give rise to queries and reservations on the part of our colleagues. We have never developed, produced and sold vehicles under these conditions before.”
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VW's timing will be great for the first 40,000 minutes and then the plan will end up in the shop like its vehicles after 40,000 miles.