Another bad sign for automakers. Automaker Stellantis has opted to close Germany’s Opel vehicle manufacturing plant through the end of 2021 due to semiconductor chip shortages. Stellantis received criticism from French union representatives saying that too many workers were being furloughed. However, this problem is far from being specific to Stellantis and Opel.
Stellantis is closing the Opel Eisenach plant for now
According to a report from Reuters, Stellantis has decided to close the plant in Germany through the end of the year. The reason given was chip shortages, which have been impacting all facets of the automotive industry. The Opel Eisenach plant makes internal combustion engine (ICE) cars, and hybrid electric vehicles should reopen sometime in 2022. The spokesperson for the company did not give an exact date.
Opel noted the plant would be laying off 1,300 workers currently employed at the plant. The company said the layoff would be temporary, and some workers would be offered jobs at a similar facility in France. However, that has yet to be determining.
Stellantis has been halting production at a variety of plants in Europe and Canada lately. It anticipates making 1.4 million fewer vehicles this year due to the shortage.
Stellantis has been criticized over the “furlough scheme”
In another piece by Reuters, two of the leading trade unions for the automaker criticized the “furlough scheme.” The idea of furloughing staff from the Opel factory was called “mitigating the impact of a fall in output brought on by a global chip shortage.” This was agreed on by four unions at Stellantis and opposed by the other two already mentioned.
The deal allowed the company to reduce the number of hours worked each day by the staff. According to Reuters, the state would reimburse the company for some lost hours, allowing workers to retain some of the original salaries. But, there is a catch. The company has to re-train workers once the plant opens again and cannot lay anyone off.
A meeting on Tuesday brought forth a complaint from union representatives that too many workers were being furloughed. “White-collar workers are having to go into partial unemployment even when there is plenty of work to do. It makes no sense,” Anh-Quan Nguyen told Reuters.
Many other automakers have come to similar conclusions
Stellantis is hardly alone in laying off or furloughing workers right now. Toyota announced it was going to cut production by 40% for the next few months. Jeep, Ford, Hyundai, and other brands have announced similar production cuts. Some plants are closing for the whole month of September. Toyota planned to focus on the 2022 Toyota Tundra and cut production from less-popular vehicles. GM recently announced nearly all of the North American plants would slow down production in the near future.
Opel is not the most popular brand on the market, but Stellantis has been working on bringing it back. At Stellantis EV day 2021, the automaker announced big plans for the Opel Manta as an electric vehicle. Opel plans to be fully electric by 2028.
For now, it seems like there is hope for the Opel plant to reopen in 2022. Until then, workers might have to adjust accordingly.