VW Reopening Plants; Nissan, Honda, Bentley Extend Shutdowns

VW’s complex in Chattanooga, TN, has been shuttered since March 21 and remains closed indefinitely. There is no plan yet to restart production in Chattanooga.

Jim Irwin, Associate Editor

April 17, 2020

4 Min Read
VW Chattanooga
VW complex in Chattanooga, TN, shut down March 21.

Volkswagen says it intends to resume production the week of April 20 at car plants in Zwickau, Germany; and Bratislava, Slovakia. Beginning April 27 and the following weeks, the automaker will begin gradually reopening factories in Portugal, Spain, Russia and elsewhere in Germany.

Meanwhile, Nissan, Honda and Bentley extend production suspensions at factories in the U.S., Mexico and U.K., respectively, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most of VW’s European plants have been closed for nearly six weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The automaker’s complex in Chattanooga, TN, has been shuttered since March 21 and remains closed indefinitely. There is no plan yet to restart production in Chattanooga.

VW says car plants in South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico are to reopen in May, while Volkswagen Group Components plants will continue coming back online – a process that began April 6 with the reopening of facilities in Brunswick and Kassel, Germany.

Production at VW’s car and CV plants will resume in line with the availability of parts, government requirements in Germany and Europe, the development of sales markets and the resulting modes of operation of the plants, the automaker says in a news release.

“Irrespective of these developments, compliance with the stringent health protection measures for employees will always be the top priority,” the automaker says. A 100-point plan designed to protect employees from infection by the coronavirus will be implemented at each plant.

Meanwhile, Ford said earlier this week its joint venture plants in China, where coronavirus risks developed earlier and are now moderating, are producing and wholesaling vehicles.

The Dearborn, MI, automaker said it is considering a phased restart of its other manufacturing plants and supply network in the second quarter, with enhanced safety standards in place to protect workers. 

In Germany, VW brand Chief Operating Officer Ralf Brandstätter said federal and state governments in Europe have loosened restrictions as conditions have been established for the gradual resumption of production.

“Volkswagen has prepared intensively for these steps over the past three weeks. 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,” he says.

The measures designed to protect VW workers from infection “will set a standard for the industry,” says Bernd Osterloh, chairman of the Works Council representing shop-floor employees. “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.honda-900.jpg


“This is why I expect our managers to ensure that employees are thoroughly familiar with the new procedures. Taking the time to answer questions is more important now than daily production figures.”

The automaker says it reopened its Volkswagen Group Components plants in Germany on April 6, as well as other facilities in Germany and Poland on April 14, to ensure parts supplies for vehicle production in China.

Production has resumed at 32 of VW’s 33 plants in China, where “a large number of consistent health protection measures have been successfully implemented… No cases of coronavirus have been reported among the employees there.”

Also on April 27, the automaker says it plans to gradually resume production at its Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles plants in Hannover, Germany; and Poznań and Wrześniam, Poland.

Nissan said Thursday it will keep all of its U.S. manufacturing facilities closed until mid-May.

The automaker originally said in mid-March it would close all four of its U.S. plants until April 6, then said it would keep the factories idle until the end of April.

Honda is extending the shutdown of its automobile, engine and transmission plants in Mexico through April 30. The automaker said earlier it has suspended production at its U.S. and Canadian automobile, engine and transmission plants (above, left) through May 1. The automaker began shutting down operations at its North American facilities March 23.

“In addition to the impact of COVID-19 on the marketplace, stay-at-home orders in many cities and states prevent consumers in a number of markets from purchasing new vehicles,” Honda says in a news release. “As a result, Honda must continue to suspend production in order to align product supply with a lack of market demand.”

Bentley says its Crewe, U.K., facility (below), originally set to reopen April 20, is to begin ramping up production May 11, with full production expected to resume May 18.Bentley assembly line.jpg

Bentley assembly line_0




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