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Brands begin planning factory re-openings

New day: Mercedes-Benz is hoping to open German plants such as Sindelfingen (left) by April 20.

Car-makers discuss re-opening European factories in anticipation of virus decline

13 Apr 2020

AUTO manufacturers in Europe have begun to announce plans to reopen manufacturing facilities in anticipation of the COVID-19 virus lessening its overall impact on society.


Daimler has announced it plans to open select production facilities in Germany as early as April 20, namely its facilities in Sindelfingen, just outside Stuttgart, and Bremen, in the country’s north-west.


The Sindelfingen plant produces over 300,000 vehicles per year and employs 25,000 workers, making vehicles such as the S-Class, E-Class and AMG GT.


It is second in production only to the Bremen plant, which employs around 12,500 people and produces 12 different models including the C-Class and GLC, totalling around 400,000 units per year.


However the company is unlikely to return immediately to full capacity, with shorter shift times for workers in place until the end of April.


Compatriot brand Audi is also hoping to reopen facilities on the same day in Neckarshulm, Germany and Brussels in Belgium, which together produce a wide range of models for the Four Rings brand including the A4, A5, A6, A7, A8 passenger cars and the E-Tron all-electric SUV.


In nearby Italy, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is in discussions with local unions to reopen its production facilities once the nationwide shutdown ends, which has been extended from April 13 to May 3 the country’s rate of new COVID-19 cases dropping.


If the ban is lifted, FCA will be able to reopen its 16 facilities that were forced to close a month ago, with the range of plants servicing brands including Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Jeep and Maserati.


The discussions with the unions centre around FCA providing the implementation of safe working conditions including increased sanitation.


Ferrari is also working towards re-opening its Maranello facility which will see its doors open on May 3 at the earliest, also announcing a plan to keep its employees safe when the factory does re-open.


Called ‘Back on Track’, the program will include voluntary blood test for employees, which can also be extended to cohabiting relatives and the staff of suppliers working with the Prancing Horse.


Workers will also be offered the use of an app, which can help monitor the symptoms of the virus, which will help Ferrari determine the number of affected workers.


Free insurance will be provided to employees who test positive, as well as accommodation suitable for self-isolating.


In other news, Aston Martin has started developing frontline medical equipment for local hospitals in Coventry and Warwickshire, creating protective visors and hospital gowns from its Gaydon manufacturing facility.


The British brand is aiming to produce 150 visors per week, as well as up to 750 gowns per week.


Rolls-Royce is also reportedly developing face visors, according to local publication The Chichester Observer.

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