The gears of production are slowly turning once more at Volkswagen's Wolfsburg factory. After weeks of being idle due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the automaker has officially restarted vehicle production after conditions in the country have improved.
The first vehicle that the factory will produce is the all-new Golf, but don't expect Volkswagen to start building them in huge numbers. Like the Zwickau factory which also recently restarted production, the Wolfsburg plant will only build the Golf at a reduced capacity of about 10 to 15% of the normal pace.
According to Ralf Brandstatter, Chief Operating Officer of the Volkswagen Passenger Car Brands, this is the first step the company is taking in order to stimulate demand in Germany and throughout Europe, while also managing the crisis that is still affecting the country.
“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,” said Brandstatter.
Some 8,000 employees have returned to the factory halls in order to build the all-new Golf. To ensure the workforce's health and safety, Volkswagen imposed several safety measures. These include the wearing of face masks where minimum safe distances of 1.5 meters are not possible, constant temperature checks by employees on themselves, placement of walkway diversions in order to avoid close contact with one another, as well as the use of plexiglass partitions across the factory.
Initial production of the hatchback will only be on a one-shift basis and will have longer cycle times. Come Wednesday, however, the automaker will also restart production of the Tiguan, Touran and the SEAT Tarraco to meet customer demand in Europe.
With this in mind, Volkswagen is expecting to roll out some 1,400 vehicles by the end of the first week. Production will then ramp up to about 6,000 vehicles in the following week as multi-shift operation commences. This represents approximately 40% of production prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With 2,600 suppliers resuming production for Volkswagen's main plant, along with 70% of dealerships in the country have already reopened, the automaker is looking to deliver vehicles, as well as provide quality service to customers once more.
To date, Germany has 158,758 confirmed cases, 6,126 deaths, and 114,500 recoveries. There are now only 38,132 active cases in Germany, with 94% only showing mild symptoms. The remaining 6%, however, are in serious or critical condition.
With Germany on its way to recovery, perhaps it might not be long before other automakers in the country will also begin restarting vehicle production.