LONDON -- Bentley will make wearing face masks compulsory at its British car factory and has redesigned the site to introduce a two-meter distance between workers which will see output halved over the first couple of weeks of production, CEO Adrian Hallmark told Reuters.
The Volkswagen Group-owned ultraluxury brand's site in Crewe is due to reopen on May 11, seven weeks since it shut due to the coronavirus outbreak, making it one of the first automakers to resume production in Britain.
The company is implementing about 250 additional measures, including temperature checks and one-way systems, alongside leaving a gap between each vehicle on the production line to maintain a safer distance, leading to an initial 50 percent cut in output.
"On the line, (there will be) massive change in the first few weeks," CEO Adrian Hallmark said.
"We think it will take us almost into summer to get back to anything like full production as long as everything stays stable until then."
There will also be different entrances at the plant with no touch required on any barriers or devices and plastic separation screens in office areas at the site, which employs over 4,000 people.
Whether Britons should wear face coverings once lockdown measures are eased remains a thorny issue with Scotland recommending such a move in enclosed public places while the London government is still looking at evidence from advisers.
"We see it as good practice when we all get together in a close environment to give the confidence that ... any problems will be caught by those masks," said Hallmark.
The automaker faces hundreds of millions of pounds of deferred or lost revenue from the plant closure and reduced output, the CEO said, but has built up supplies of components using extra storage space designed for a hard Brexit, enabling a smoother return.
Demand in China, which accounted for nearly a fifth of sales in 2019, is also bouncing back.
"In the second week of April we took more orders than the month of January or February," said Hallmark.
"The question is will that continue, will there be a second wave but more importantly, will the European and U.S. markets recover as fast as the China market has?"