Hyundai restarts Czech production, Audi opens in Hungary

Hyundai Motor Czech car plant was the first in the central European country to get back to work on Tuesday after a three-week outage, potentially easing some of the strain on the hard-hit economy. Hyundai, whose output of 309,500 cars last year was nearly all for export, said it would run two out of three shifts. The down shift will be used for disinfecting operations.

The car sector accounts for a tenth of economic output and a quarter of exports in the Czech Republic, and employs 150,000 directly and even more indirectly. All three of the country's major carmakers have been offline since mid-March as part of efforts to curb the coronavirus and authorities have forecast at least a 5% economic contraction this year.

But while Hyundai's plant returned to work, there was gloomier picture elsewhere. TPCA, a joint venture of Toyota Motor and Peugeot, said it would extend its outage to 4 May, scrapping plans to relaunch later this week.

The country's top exporter, Volkswagen's Skoda, is for now planning to leave workers at home until 27 April. By contrast tiremaker Continental relaunched its Czech plant employing over 5,000 in the east of the country with limited production on Tuesday, having temporarily halted it last month.

Also on Tuesday the Volkswagen Group's Audi brand restarted operations at its plant in Gyor, Hungary after halting work on 22 March. In a video posted on a Gyor-based news site late Monday, Audi's local management said it had agreed with Volkswagen to begin preparations for restarting full-scale production.

"Now the most important task for the company is to prepare for continuing complete vehicle production despite the critical situation," said Audi Hungary head Alfons Dintner. "We believe that within a few weeks we can get up and running... Our clients worldwide are waiting for cars. We have to be a reliable supplier," he added.

First operations to restart include maintenance work, and organisational measures aimed at relaunching production lines while implementing anti-virus health rules. Physical distancing between workers will be enforced, and workstation plexiglass dividers and personal protective equipment provided where necessary, said the firm.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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