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Final Assembly Plants Begin to Reopen in Europe

Carmakers are pilot-testing their health safety strategies.
#europe #facilities #Chrysler

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Carmakers in Europe are cautiously resuming limited vehicle production after last month’s shutdowns to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Many companies began making components in Europe as early as April 6 ahead of resumed assembly operations this week. A few others are just now resuming parts production, with plans to begin final assembly work a week or two later.

All are doing so with sharply reduced staffs, relatively modest output targets and the recognition that work hours may be irregular.

This week, Renault called back 10% of its normal workforce at three plants in France that make chassis components, engines and reconditioned auto parts.

The French carmaker aims to resume final vehicle assembly work on April 28 at its factory in Flins, using about 25% of that facility’s normal staff. Renault says it has a “full order book” for the plant’s electric Renault Zoe and piston-powered Nissan Micra five-door mini-hatches.

Renault intends to open the remainder of its French factories in May.

Volkswagen, which reopened several parts plants two weeks ago in Germany, began a staged restart of vehicle production on April 20, when its factory in Bratislava, Slovakia, reopened. Output of electric ID3 small hatchbacks in Zwickau, Germany, will follow on April 23.

VW also will reopen assembly operations next week in Portugal, Spain and Russia.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles hopes to start making light commercial vans in Italy on April 27, even though the government won’t lift its lockdown order until May 4, union officials tell Reuters. The company hopes to receive a waiver by arguing that the vans qualify as essential vehicles.

Nissan facilities in Europe have been shuttered since as early as March 13. Now the company says it will begin pilot production at parts plants “to make sure we are prepared” when normal business conditions return in Europe.

This week, 50 members of the powertrain team at Nissan’s giant plant in Sunderland, England, will start low-volume pilot production. Two components facilities in Spain will do the same on April 27.

Nissan says its first return to vehicle assembly in Europe will come on May 4 when it reopens a line that makes pickup trucks at its complex in Barcelona. Three of the company’s component facilities in Spain also will resume reduced output at that time.

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