Volkswagen offers cars for relief efforts in U.S. virus-hit regions

(Reuters) – Germany’s Volkswagen AG <VOWG_p.DE> said on Monday its U.S. dealers would provide cars for free delivery of essential supplies to people in need during the coronavirus crisis.

The automaker said it had asked the dealers to use their loaner fleet – cars typically offered to customers to drive while their vehicles are in a shop for repairs – to pickup and deliver supplies in coronavirus-affected communities.

The loaner cars can be called upon for delivering food to a local food bank, transporting masks and gowns, and dropping off necessary items to those who are unable to leave their home, the company said.

Volkswagen said its dealers would not charge the group or person making such a request.

“Only dealership employees will be permitted to drive the vehicles. Volkswagen corporate will offer dealers a daily stipend per vehicle to cover fuel and lease costs,” the automaker said.

Volkswagen’s network of more than 600 U.S. dealers maintains a loaner fleet of nearly 7,000 vehicles, although some dealerships could be closed or working with reduced personnel due to state and local guidelines.

With auto showrooms shut during the coronavirus pandemic, rivals Fiat Chrysler <FCHA.MI> and General Motors Co <GM.N>, earlier this month, moved to reboot demand with seven-year, no-interest loans and programs allowing customers to buy vehicles online. (https://reut.rs/2VrmJYu)

(Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni and Shailesh Kuber)

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