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German automakers to restart production as lockdowns ease

German automakers such as Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz will restart production at some German plants next week after the country eased restrictions designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday stated that Germany has achieved a “fragile intermediate success” in its battle against the coronavirus and that its emergence from lockdown would start with the partial reopening of shops next week and schools from May 4.

Unlike Italy and Spain, Germany never prohibited automobile production, though factories came to a standstill following restrictions by authorities regarding the movement of people and ordered shutting down car dealerships, hitting demand.

Volkswagen stated it will start producing vehicles for its core brand in Zwickau, Germany, and in Bratislava, Slovakia, on April 20.

Plants located in Russia, Spain, Portugal and the United States will increase production from April 27 onwards, joined by plants in South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico in May.

“With the decisions by the federal and state governments in Germany and the loosening of restrictions in other European states, conditions have been established for the gradual resumption of production,” stated Ralf Brandstaetter, Chief Operating Officer of the Volkswagen brand.

The automaker has retooled production to make sure that workers keep 1.5 metres apart. Other measures include the staggering of shifts and lunch breaks, plus steps to modify worker interaction in Volkswagen’s supply chain.

“In the light of the pandemic, we need to adapt our routines. One answer is our new agreement on health protection. With about 100 measures, we are keeping the risk of infection at Volkswagen as low as possible,” said Bernd Osterloh, Chairman of the company’s Works Council.

In China, where the automaker has already implemented health measures, 32 of the 33 plants have restarted production and no coronavirus infections among workers have been reported.

Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler stated that its plants located in Hamburg, Berlin and Untertuerkheim will restart production next week. Its Berlin plant makes engine-management systems for automobiles sold in China.

Production will initially resume in a one-shift system, Daimler said, with plants located in Sindelfingen and Bremen also making preparations to increase production.

BMW stated it had no details about the timetable for restarting production. The Munich-based manufacturer has postponed production until end of April.

About 138,273 people in Germany have been confirmed as being infected with the coronavirus. The virus has killed 4,101 people in the country.

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