DETROIT (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co (F.N) said on Thursday it planned to restart production at some plants in North America as early as April 6, bringing back its most profitable vehicles at a time when U.S. demand has slumped and the No. 2 U.S. automaker is conserving cash to survive the coronavirus pandemic.
The logo is seen on the bonnet of a new Ford Aspire car during its launch in New Delhi, India, October 4, 2018. Picture taken October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
The Dearborn, Michigan-based company said it was bringing key plants back online, while introducing additional safety measures to protect returning workers from the coronavirus pandemic.
Among the vehicles Ford will begin production of again are the sales-leading F-150 full-sized pickup and heavier-duty versions of the truck, as well as commercial vans and SUVs.
“We will continue to assess public health conditions as well as supplier readiness and will adjust plans if necessary,” the company said here in a statement.
The global coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 21,000 people, has forced the shutdown of auto plants around the world as companies attempt to curtail the spread of the disease among factory employees.
The outbreak has put pressure on companies, including Ford, which drew down credit lines to build its cash position. That move led Standard & Poor’s on Wednesday to downgrade the company’s debt to “junk” status and warn Ford was at risk of another downgrade.
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed a $2 trillion economic rescue package to help unemployed workers and companies, including the auto industry, hit hard by the outbreak.
U.S. President Donald Trump, concerned about the economic repercussions of an extended shutdown, has said he wants America to get back to business by Easter, or April 12, suggesting some efforts to slow the spread of the outbreak will no longer be needed by then.
General Motors Co (GM.N) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCA)(FCHA.MI) (FCAU.N) previously said they would shut down their North American operations through March 30 and then reassess after that.
“The situation is fluid and can change week to week,” GM spokesman Jim Cain said on Thursday. “We don’t have firm return-to-work dates at this time.”
FCA spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said on Thursday the Italian-American automaker was evaluating the situation.
UAW President Rory Gamble said on Tuesday in a letter to union members that Ford and FCA had no plans to reopen manufacturing operations on March 30. The UAW has said three union members who worked at FCA plants have died due to the coronavirus.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an order on Monday barring non-essential businesses from operating until April 13. A spokeswoman for Whitmer was previously unable to clarify whether auto production was considered essential or not.
Ford plans to begin production on one shift at its Hermosillo, Mexico, assembly plant, where it builds the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans.
It will restart production on April 14 at its Dearborn plant that builds the F-150 and a Kentucky plant that makes the Super Duty version of the pickup as well as the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs.
The Ford Transit van line at its Kansas City, Missouri, plant, the Ohio plant that builds Econoline vans and heavy duty trucks, and several stamping, transmission and parts plants also will restart on that day.
Additional reporting by Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Bernadette Baum