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Volkswagen its extending its week-long shutdown of its Chattanooga assembly plant for another week as the growing coronavirus takes a bigger toll on the U.S. economy.
VW of America, Chattanooga's biggest manufacturing employer with 3,800 workers, announced Wednesday that it is extending its previous week-long plant shutdown to allow more workers to stay home and limit the spread of the virus.
"The health and safety of our team remains our highest priority," said Tom du Plessis, president of Volkswagen of America, which will continue to pay its workers during the extended plant shutdown.
VW plans to resume production Sunday, April 5 at 10 p.m., although the company said it will continue to monitor the growing virus and may update that schedule later.
Volkswagen also delayed its planned application process for hiring more production workers at its Chattanooga assembly plant on Tuesday.
VW of America, which plans to hire another 600 workers to staff its new $800 million electric vehicle production facility in Chattanooga, said it is putting off the planned interviews and hiring of more workers because of growing concerns about the coronavirus.
"Our hiring, onboarding and training processes require in-person interactions; therefore, by postponing these activities we hope to help prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19," du Plessis said.
The hiring planned by VW this year is the biggest hiring directly by the automaker since the plant first opened in 2009.
In South Carolina, the BMW manufacturing plant in Spartanburg temporarily closed its auto assembly plant, a week ahead of when the company had planned a two week outage.
"The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a very dynamic situation," BMW said in a statement. "We've had to adjust our plans accordingly."
BMW previously planned to shut down the plant for two weeks, beginning April 2. About 11,000 people work at the Spartanburg plant.
The shutdowns, which follow the closings of other auto plants and foundries across the country, are due both to worker concerns about virus exposure in the factories and supply problems from the shut down of other manufacturers.