Ford, Fiat Chrysler plan to restart production at North American auto plants in 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 and Fiat Chrysler plan to restart production at their North American assembly plants that temporarily shuttered last week due to the coronavirus pandemic in April.

Ford said Thursday morning that it 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 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.

Fiat Chrysler later in the day said its Michigan headquarters, plants in the U.S. and Canada and construction projects “are intended to remain closed until April 14.” The company said the reopenings will be “dependent upon the various state stay in place orders and the readiness of each facility to return to production.”

The new timelines 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.

Urged by the United Auto Workers union, Ford, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors 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. 

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.”

Shares of Ford were down 4.8% during pre-market trading following the announcement and remained down about 2% during trading in the early afternoon. Fiat Chrysler shares were trading up 1.1% following the company’s announcement. GM’s stock was up 4.4%. 

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.

Fiat Chrysler did not release a plant-by-plant breakdown. The company said the status of production at FCA’s Mexican operations will “be subject to a separate announcement.”

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

Fiat Chrysler, according to an emailed statement, “continues to take important steps to help flatten the curve of the spread of COVID-19, and put the health and safety of our workforce, and the communities where we live and work first.”

UAW President Rory Gamble, in an emailed statement, said the union “continues to review with great caution and concern decisions being made about restarting workplaces, especially at advanced dates.”

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