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Volkswagen, FCA shut facilities in Europe as Covid-19 disrupts industry

By Maricel Burgonio, Italy

Turin--German car manufacturer Volkswagen is suspending the operation at its European production plants for two weeks amid the spread of coronavirus ( COVID 19).

Deteriorating sales, uncertainty in the supply chains of the company and the threat to the worker’s health were cited as some of the reasons for the decision to suspend operations.

“Brand is responding above all to the accelerated rate of infection by coronavirus, the resulting interruption in supply chains and the rapid decline in demand on the automotive markets. Company implements additional measures to protect employees,” Volkswagen said in a statement.

Specifically, the plants operated by Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand and Volkswagen Group Components will be temporarily closed. Initially, the affected production facilities include Wolfsburg, Emden, Dresden, Osnabrück, Zwickau, Bratislava (Slovakia), Pamplona (Spain) and Palmela (Portugal) are affected, as well as the component plants at Brunswick, Chemnitz, Hanover, Kassel, Salzgitter and SITECH.

Ralf Brandstätter, Chief Operation Officer of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand, said it decided to run production down from the end of last shift Thursday.

“The spread of coronavirus in Europe is increasingly having an adverse impact on the demand situation. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly difficult to supply our plants with outsourced parts,” he explained.

To protect its employees, Volkswagen is implementing further measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The company canteens, self-service shops, cafeterias, bistros, restaurants and catering services will be closed. Moreover, special protection applies for employees with special health risks as a result of pre-existing conditions affecting the heart or lungs and employees with weakened immune systems, among others.

Furthermore, the company said the employees returning to Germany from other countries after March 14 are forbidden from entering the plant sites and other facilities of Volkswagen AG during the incubation period of 14 weekdays. Mobile working or working from home is proposed for up to five days per week.

Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (FCA) said it suspends the production of its European manufacturing plants under its subsidiaries FCA Italy and Maserati amid the COVID-19 crisis.

“In particular, the suspension of production is being facilitated to enable the Group to be ready to commence production promptly once market conditions allow,” FCA said in a statement.

It will temporarily close the facilities in Italy, Serbia and Poland. The temporary suspension will be in effect through March 27, 2020. FCA said it has been proactively modifying production protocols at several plants, including enhancing social distancing between employees at work-stations. Strict controls and security measures have been applied to canteens and to external access to all group sites. At FCA offices, the company has accelerated the deployment of working remotely with this option now widely available to employees across the world.

Volkwagen employs 671,000 people globally and delivered 4.86 million vehicle to European customers in 2019.

Photo Credit: Volkswagen Newsroom

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