Car manufacturer Opel has switched production at the main plant in order to manufacture electric cars in large series. Although robots do a lot of work there, 300 jobs will soon be created.
In the past few months, Opel or Stellantis, as the company is now called, has been in the headlines mainly because of the job cuts. A good 2,000 employees are to be cut across Germany through programs such as partial retirement, early retirement or severance payments. But now there is again positive news from Rüsselsheim. After a comprehensive conversion of production, in which around 1000 people were involved, the reintroduction of the two-shift system is expected to create 300 new jobs. This is what plant manager Michael Lewald said on Thursday during a tour of the plant with journalists. How much the conversion to the Stellantis platforms cost is not disclosed by the company for reasons of competition. There is only talk of “investments in the significant millions”. For the first time, electric cars can now be mass-produced in Rüsselsheim.
Arrived in the production hall, a strange structure with lots of flashing lights hums silently by. Always along a dark line on the floor to a production line where the load is currently needed. It is one of the driverless transport vehicles that Stellantis has purchased 213 in the past few months. You can automatically transport up to 25 tons from the warehouse directly to the processing line.
The usual vehicles with clattering trailers are still scurrying around between the new electric vehicles, because the new production is currently still in the trial phase.
Efficient and CO2-neutral in the long term
The renovation work began during the factory holidays in 2020. Everything leaner, everything more efficient, everything more energy-saving, that was the motto. And above all everything on the platform that is also common in other Stellantis plants. The new Opel Astra, which will be presented in autumn and delivered in early 2022, can be built on the production line, as can the Insignia and DS vehicles from the parent company Peugeot. Another special feature, according to Lewald, is the problem-free combination of vehicles with internal combustion engines and electric vehicles. They all float one behind the other on the so-called “wedding” hangers, where the body and chassis are joined together. All of this takes place on a production line and ensures efficiency, as does the new painting line, in which all models are also gradually given the desired color.
In the past, people used to work there with spray guns, but now robots do this work as well. Here, too, Thilo Richter, the head of the paint shop, emphasizes the efficiency. The robots only spray as much paint as is absolutely necessary, and as precisely as a human cannot, as Richter explains. This means that less paint is used than before and less energy is required. An important step towards the company’s goal of becoming CO2 neutral in the long term.
Huge halls, hardly any people
EMP2 (Efficient Modular Platform) is the name of the new system that enables the production of many model variants at the same time. In addition, a second production shift can be reintroduced, which will lead to the 300 new jobs – provided that the significant drop in sales that caused sales on the new car market to collapse as a result of the corona pandemic will soon be over. The new colleagues in production should not, however, be new hires. Stellantis speaks of “employees from areas of the company that are underutilized”.
Nobody at Stellantis, however, wants to say how many jobs will be lost as a result of the increase in efficiency. It will probably not be a small number, because anyone walking through the factory halls will see the yellow robots everywhere, moving between the bodyshells, installing parts and setting welding points. People can hardly be seen in the huge halls. More than 40,000 people once worked at the Opel site in Rüsselsheim. In the meantime, the number is just around 10,000 men and women.