German automakers had call with Merkel about coronavirus crisis

German automakers

The heads of Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler held a crisis call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday to talk about how to get production restarted, Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper reported.

Automakers have stopped production at some sites as governments across the world have imposed lockdowns on their populations to stop the spread of coronavirus outbreak.

Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess last week stated the automaker might have to slash jobs if the pandemic is not brought under control as it is spending about 2 billion euros ($2.18 billion) per week.

Handelsblatt cited participants in the call as saying automakers were particularly concerned regarding the supply chain.

A Volkswagen source informed Reuters the automakers discussed the situation in the industry and how production could be started after the end of coronavirus crisis. There was agreement that an EU-wide approach to re-starting production was required, the source said.

“It doesn’t help if one country forges ahead and then everything in Italy or Spain is still at a standstill,” the source stated, adding that such a scenario would create gaps in the supply chain.

The Volkswagen source stated in the talks there had been agreement that a working group, consisting of the government, industry and the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, should be set up to develop standards for safeguarding workers when production is resumed, such as protective clothing, masks, distancing workers and frequent cleaning of sanitary facilities.

The source stated the automakers also talked about the situation facing car suppliers and that while big original equipment producers were well provided for in terms of liquidity, that was not the case for many providers.

A source at Daimler stated Merkel, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and Joerg Hofmann, head of the IG Metall trade union, all participated in the meeting with Daimler CEO Ola Kaellenius, BMW boss Oliver Zipse and Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess.

A survey published on Wednesday revealed the country’s export-dependent manufacturing sector saw the steepest decline in output in almost 11 years in March, as the coronavirus pandemic forced plants shut down in Europe’s biggest economy.

About 91,959 people in Germany have been confirmed as being infected with the coronavirus. The virus has killed 1,277 people in the country.

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