Hungary ready to help Audi run local plant at full capacity: Orban

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BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary is ready to give financial support to Audi NSUG.DE to help its manufacturing plant in the country run at full operating capacity, Prime Minister Viktor Orban was reported as saying on Monday as he visited the site.

Orban said Audi was key to the Hungarian economy’s recovery from the adverse impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have to fight for the Audi plant as well,” state news agency MTI cited Orban as saying.

MTI said Audi’s engine and car manufacturing plant in the western Hungarian city of Gyor returned to normal operation with three shifts on Monday after weeks of disruption caused by the pandemic.

“We can protect jobs with agreements,” MTI cited Orban as saying. The prime minister did not elaborate on the specifics of support for Audi, which employed 12,807 people at the end of 2019 and is one of Hungary’s top exporters and revenue earners.

A spokeswoman for Audi declined to comment.

The Gyor plant manufactured 1.97 million engines and 164,817 cars last year, including the Q3 Sportback, the RS Q3 and RS Q3 Sportback, after investments worth over 11.5 billion euros since Audi entered Hungary.

Orban said it could take up to two years for major manufacturers in Hungary to draw up plans exceeding those from before the pandemic, signalling a potentially long recovery for the local car sector, a mainstay of the Hungarian economy.

MTI cited Audi Hungaria’s Chairman of the Board, Alfons Dintner, as saying that the Hungarian factory was still well off pre-crisis output levels, adding that customer demand was “moderate”.

Reporting by Krisztina Than and Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Kirsten Donovan