Ford Motor Company has announced that the company plans to reopen certain manufacturing facilities as early as April 6, according to a report by Reuters. The announcement comes as the Dearborn-based automaker looks for an influx of cash following the financially tumultuous past couple of weeks. The plan to fire up shuttered North American plants is focused around the Blue Oval’s most profitable vehicles: The Ford truck lineup of the F-150 pickup, the commercial Transit van, and full-size SUVs.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an order on Monday barring non-essential businesses from operating until April 13. Experts have warned that this timeline will likely need to be stretched further to properly suppress the spread of COVID-19. This wouldn’t bode well for Ford’s timeline of restarting production on the F-150, or anything other than medical equipment.
The announcement also stated that the reopening will not take place without proper safety precautions taking place, though Ford has stated those precautions will be detailed at a later time. In order to further stem the loss of cash, Ford’s top 300 executives will also all be taking a deferment on 20 percent to 50 percent of their salaries for five months beginning on May 1. This decision was made to avoid a situation where layoffs would need to happen, though Ford CEO Jim Hackett did say that should the outcome of the pandemic worsen it may be unavoidable.
Reuters reports that Ford will also be deferring salary increases more broadly, as well as holding off on hiring in non-critical areas. Overtime has also been suspended for salaried employees, though there is no change to employee healthcare coverage and exposed employees will be paid for their time in self-quarantine.
After experiencing an abysmal year for profits in 2019, Ford was aiming to have a successful 2020 on the back of upcoming models like the Ford Bronco and Bronco Sport. The coronavirus pandemic has certainly disrupted every automakers profits for the first part of this year, and potentially for much longer. Moving to reopen the Ford truck facilities may prove to be ineffective if buyers are not heading back to dealerships in the near future. That said, we wouldn’t bet against the Ford truck lineup’s popularity and power as a capital generator.
The announcement also comes shortly after the UAW confirmed that two FCA employees who were exposed to the virus have died. Tensions between employees and automakers had been escalating prior to the closing of many of North America’s production facilities, and a move to reopen could have similarly volatile effects.