PARIS — Renault will restart operations next week at its factory in Flins, France, where it builds the Renault Zoe electric small car and the Nissan Micra small hatchback.
It will be the first Renault assembly plant to start up again after the automaker closed European factories in mid-March as governments imposed restrictions on movement to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Renault’s other French car plants will resume production in May, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Three component factories in France — the engine plant in Cleon, chassis component plant in Le Mans, and a reconditioned spare parts plant in Choisy-le-Roi — resumed work on a limited basis this week. The sites employ a total of more than 5,000 people, although no more than 10 percent are working now, Renault said.
Workers at the plants have been on temporary unemployment, with the French government reimbursing up 84 percent of gross salaries.
The assembly line at Flins will open, likely on April 28, with about 25 percent to 30 percent of the site’s 2,600 employees, as safety procedures are tested for effectiveness, Renault said. The automaker would not give details on which models would be built or how many would be made at first.
Renault signed a “solidarity contract” with workers at the beginning of April that provided for safety procedures to be put in place, and also contained provisions on potential overtime and irregular working hours, to give flexibility to meet uncertain demand.
Workers at Flins will follow safety protocols including wearing face masks, having their temperatures taken and maintaining at least 1 meter of distance as they work.
A delegate for the CFDT union told Agence France-Presse that workers would be trained in safety measures first before working on the line. The delegate, Franck Daout, added that there was a full order book for the Zoe at Flins and that “buyers were awaiting delivery of their cars.”
Renault sold 45,811 Zoes last year in Europe, an increase of 20 percent over 2018, when 38,140 were sold. Sales were running at an even higher pace this year, with electric vehicles key to meeting new fleet emissions targets. Renault sold 16,025 Zoes in the first two months of this year.
There were 64,257 Nissan Micras sold in Europe in 2019, a decrease of 15 percent from 2018, according to figures from JATO Dynamics. The two cars are built on the same production line at Flins.
Other Renault Group plants across Europe are slowly coming on line, including a transmission plant in Cacia, Portugal; an engine factory in Valladolid, Spain; the AvtoVAZ Lada factory in Russia; and Dacia’s huge complex in Mioveni, Romania, which started powertrain operations this week.