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Costly Electric Vehicles Confront a Harsh Coronavirus Reality

For automakers who have invested heavily in a shift to high tech, there’s no turning back.

Volkswagen’s Zwickau factory, Feb. 25, 2020.  

Volkswagen’s Zwickau factory, Feb. 25, 2020.  

Photographer: Ronny Hartmann/AFP via Getty Images
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At a factory near Germany’s border with the Czech Republic, Volkswagen AG’s ambitious strategy to become the global leader in electric vehicles is coming up against the reality of manufacturing during a pandemic.

The Zwickau assembly lines, which produce the soon-to-be released ID.3 electric hatchback, are the centerpiece of a plan by the world’s biggest automaker to spend 33 billion euros ($36 billion) by 2024 developing and building EVs. At the site, where an East German automaker built the diminutive Trabant during the Cold War, VW eventually wants to churn out as many as 330,000 cars annually. That would make Zwickau one of Europe’s largest electric-car factories—and help the company overtake Tesla Inc. in selling next-generation vehicles.