VW resumes production at Wolfsburg factory

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 27 Apr 2020

German automobile giant Volkswagen (VW) today resumed production of its passenger cars brand at its plant in Wolfsburg, Germany. The operations commenced at 06:30 with the assembly of the VW Golf with reduced capacity and longer cycle times to ensure social distancing.

The Wolfsburg factory is the second after VW's Zwickau plant which resumed production of the ID.3 EV on April 23.

The company says that 8,000 employees returned to the production halls to work on a single-shift basis, with multi-shift operations planned to commence from Wednesday to put the VW Tiguan, Touran as well as SEAT Tarracco models also back on the line.

Ralf Brandstatter, COO, Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand said: "Step-by-step resumption of production is an important signal for the workforce, dealerships, suppliers and the wider economy. In terms of managing the crisis, though, this is just the first step. Additional momentum is needed to stimulate demand in Germany and throughout Europe so that production volumes can be successively increased."

Along with its mother plant, around 2,600 of VW's ancillaries based within Germany have also resumed operations to support the carmaker, while following health and safety norms.

According to Bernd Osterloh, Chairman of the Group and General Works Council, “For the Works Council, the health of our colleagues has absolute priority when production resumes. To that end, we have concluded a general works agreement with some 100 points on health protection measures; Volkswagen is setting a standard for German industry with this agreement. Now it is up to line managers to make sure that all employees are fully informed about the prescribed measures before they start work. All colleagues must know what to do to best protect themselves and others. This is another example of how we look out for each other at Volkswagen.”

Gradual ramp-up
While some 1,400 vehicles are expected to be built by the end of the first week of production at the Wolfsburg plant, production will be ramped up to more than 6,000 vehicles in the following week as multi-shift operation recommences, which would represent approximately 40 percent of initial production prior to the coronavirus pandemic striking the world.

As regards vehicle retail, VW says that some 70 percent of dealerships have already reopened for business. After Zwickau, Wolfsburg is the second of the Volkswagen brand’s vehicle plants in Germany to resume production following the stoppage that began in mid-March. Production in Bratislava, Slovakia, already recommenced last Monday. Production ramp-up is in line with the current availability of parts given the continuing impact of the corona pandemic, government requirements in Germany and Europe, the development of sales markets and the resulting modes of operation of the plants.

Andreas Tostmann, Volkswagen brand Board member responsible for Production and Logistics, said: “The team is returning to workplaces that provide the maximum level of safety. The company and the Works Council have agreed a 100-point plan to ensure that.” This plan includes specific rules on distances and hygiene: Employees are called on to measure their temperature at home every morning and to go through a health checklist before they leave for work, preferably already dressed in their workwear. Walkway diversions have been set up to avoid contacts, numerous distance markers on floors act as guides for walking and for keeping distances during meetings. Mouth and nose protection must be worn in areas where minimum distances of 1.5 meters are not possible. Mobile plexiglass partitions are in use in many areas. Material is often no longer transferred from employee to employee, but is placed in containers. The teams are being given more time to clean their tools. Cleaning frequency for washrooms and team rooms is being intensified, and several hundred additional hand washing facilities are being installed throughout the plant. The company is converting conference rooms into office spaces, flextime is being extended in offices and, where possible, home office options are being continued. To maximize information and awareness, over 8,000 posters are on display at the Wolfsburg plant alone, every employee has also received a booklet containing detailed information on the precautionary measures.

Volkswagen has shared this 100-point plan with its more than 40,000 suppliers and logistics partners throughout the world. Under normal operating conditions, 2,600 suppliers from 71 countries – a large proportion of them located in Germany – deliver around 21,000 different parts to the Wolfsburg plant every day in about 2,000 trucks and 100 rail cars. Every day, around 180 double-decker rail cars and some 185 car transporters leave the plant.

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