Ford plans to restart production at ‘key’ auto plants starting in early April

Ford plans to restart production at ‘key’ auto plants starting in early April

A worker builds a Ford Expedition SUV as it goes through the assembly line at the Ford Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, Kentucky.

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Ford Motor plans to restart production at “key” North American assembly plants as early as April 6 after shutting down the factories last week under union pressure to contain the coronavirus outbreak from spreading throughout its workforce, the company announced Thursday morning.

The majority of the plants produce Ford pickups, SUVs, vans and commercial trucks. Ford President of North America Kumar Galhotra, in a statement, said the plants will include “additional safety measures to protect returning workers” from contracting COVID-19.

Urged by the United Auto Workers union, Ford as well as General Motors and Fiat Chrysler announced plans to temporarily shutter their plants due to the coronavirus on March 18. Ford initially wanted to reopen its North American plants on March 30, however withdrew that timeline earlier this week  because of various stay-at-home orders. 

Ford’s new plans come two days after President Donald Trump said on Fox News he wants the U.S. economy to “open” back up by Easter Sunday, even as the number of coronavirus cases in the country accelerates.

Shares of Ford were down 4.8% during pre-market trading following the announcement. The stock is down 42% so far this year and 36.7% over the past 12 months. 

Ford’s schedule includes reopening a plant in Mexico that produces the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans on April 6, followed by four truck, SUV and van plants on April 14 in Michigan, Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio.

To support the large assembly plants, eight supporting facilities also will come back online on April 14, the company said. It’s unclear how many employees will return to work as that time.

Ford, according to Galhotra, will “continue to assess public health conditions as well as supplier readiness and will adjust plans im necessary.”

The UAW, in a statement, said it is reviewing Ford’s plans “with great concern and caution,” citing the union’s top priority is “the health and safety of our members, their families and the American public.”

A GM spokesman, in an emailed statement, said the company does not ” have firm return to work dates at this time.” He called the situation “fluid and can change week to week.”

Fiat Chrysler did not immediately respond for comment. 

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