Ford Motor Co. will join the rest of the Detroit 3 in resuming most North American vehicle production on May 18, hours after Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lifted restrictions on manufacturing in the state.
The automaker said it planned to resume full operations at parts depots on May 11. North American plants, with a couple of exceptions, will resume production May 18 on fewer shifts.
Factories that normally operate on three shifts will be reduced to two, while plants on two shifts will fall to one. Ford said its Flat Rock Assembly Plant in southeast Michigan and Oakville Assembly Complex in Canada will remain closed until May 25.
Ford, based in Dearborn, Mich., said it will also call back roughly 12,000 "location-dependent" white collar employees working in fields such as informational technology and facilities management.
"We've been working intently with state and federal governments, our union partners and a cross-section of our workforce to reopen our North American facilities," Jim Farley, Ford COO, said in a statement Thursday. "We have reopened our facilities in China, successfully begun our phased restart in Europe and have been producing medical equipment in Michigan for more than six weeks and are using the lessons from all of that to ensure we are taking the right precautions to help keep our workforce here safe."
The automaker last week rolled out safety plans that call for more time between shifts, mandatory face masks, proper social distancing where applicable and the closure of many common areas such as cafeterias and fitness centers. Workers will be subject to daily health checks and temperature scans before they can enter a building.
Officials last week said some salaried employees could remain out of the office until early July.
Ford has been talking with the UAW almost daily about how, and when, to bring factories back online, Gary Johnson, Ford's head of manufacturing, said last week.
UAW President Rory Gamble - echoing a statement issued when General Motors and Fiat Chrysler announced restart plans -- noted the union will continue to focus on "health and safety protocols in which we have the contractual right to protect our members."
Ford executives last week said they believe they cleared another benchmark cited by Gamble: whether executives would be comfortable sending their own families inside the plants.
"Absolutely, I would feel comfortable my family coming back to work at a Ford facility," Farley said. "I completely trust the process we've come up with."
Whitmer earlier Thursday said Michigan's factories can reopen on May 11, giving suppliers time to prepare for automakers to come online the following week.