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Brands gear up for European production relaunch

Many big-name car brands are restarting production in Europe, bit longer for US

1 May 2020

AS the coronavirus pandemic’s stranglehold on the world loosens ever so slightly, an increasing number of car brands have seized the chance to resume production and start the recovery process.


Europe has proven the hotspot for manufacturing resumptions in recent weeks with FCA, Volkswagen, Skoda, Seat, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Renault, Toyota and Volvo all having restarted some form of operations at at least one of their respective facilities.


Volvo was the first to take the plunge and reopen its Torslanda plant in Sweden on April 20 after lengthy discussions with the relevant workers unions and implementation of various safety measures within the plant itself, many of which are being echoed and replicated by other brands.


“The best thing we can do to help society is to find ways to restart the company in a safe way, thereby safeguarding people’s health and their jobs,” Volvo chief executive Hakan Samuelsson said.


One common measure being taken by brands is the extensive cleaning and sanitisation of all facilities and offices while another is the marking out of designated, one-way walkways throughout the different facilities.


Many of the brands have also opted to carry out worker body temperature and pulse checks at plant entrances while nearly all of them have installed at least 100 hand sanitiser dispensers around their facilities.


Ford, BMW, Porsche, Mini, Rolls Royce and Nissan are all due to resume production as of Monday (May 4) at a reduced capacity before ramping things up over the coming weeks and months.


Jaguar Land Rover will also come back online this month, set to resume its operations on May 18.


While most brands will ease back into their respective production cycles and ramp things up over the coming weeks and months, Bentley says it will be back at full production capacity by May 18, just one week after its more than 4000 workers return to the workshops floors.


Not only is the premium British marque determined to get back into the swing of things quickly, it has also imposed some of the most stringent hygiene and social distancing measures within the industry.


For reference, Volkswagen executives devised a 100-point safety plan to be distributed and enforced for its workforce, whereas Bentley’s ‘Come Back Stronger’ colleague programme highlights some 250 individual measures.


Perhaps the most extreme of these measures is the complete redesign of the Crewe manufacturing facility to keep workers a minimum of two metres apart.


Bentley chairman and CEO Adrian Hallmark said the safety of the brand’s workforce has and always will be the top priority.


“These extensive new working measures will allow both our people and Bentley to come back stronger than ever and even more focussed,” he said.


Across the pond in the US, BMW Manufacturing has confirmed production at its Spartanburg plant in South Carolina will also restart on May 4.


America’s big three manufacturers – Ford, FCA and General Motors – meanwhile have reportedly settled on May 18 as the relaunch date of their stateside operations following talks with UAW leaders and the office of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.


Toyota meanwhile has pushed back its American production relaunch from May 4 to May 11.

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