DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. is postponing for a second time the reopening of its North American manufacturing facilities amid the global surge in coronavirus cases.
The automaker said Tuesday it will indefinitely delay the restart of production at plants in Mexico, Canada and the United States and declined to offer a restart date.
It was previously aiming to begin work at Hermosillo Assembly in Mexico on April 6 and a handful of U.S. plants on April 14. Those dates came after it pushed back original projections of returning to work March 30.
Ford CEO Jim Hackett told a Detroit radio station on Tuesday he wanted to avoid re-opening plants too early and that he hoped to get production running after April.
“My gut tells me we’re in to May now,” Hackett said on WWJ Newsradio 950 Tuesday. “We’re not projecting a date until the President actually comes through with ‘I want to turn the economy on by X date.’ That’s really the healthiest thing, is for all of us to be coordinated together.”
"The health and safety of our workforce, dealers, customers, partners and communities remains our highest priority," Kumar Galhotra, Ford president, North America, said in a statement. "We are working very closely with union leaders -- especially at the UAW -- to develop additional health and safety procedures aimed at helping keep our workforce safe and healthy."
Meanwhile Tuesday, two more Ford union employees were reported to have died from the virus. The UAW said an employee who worked at Dearborn Diversified in southeastern Michigan and a worker from the Michigan Assembly Plant's integrated stamping facility in Wayne, Mich., both died from the virus. A total of four UAW Ford workers have died after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
"It is a tragic reminder that the coronavirus crisis is everywhere and requires the attention of all of us,” a Ford spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “Our thoughts are with their families, friends and co-workers during this difficult time."
Ford and the union over the weekend confirmed two other employees had died from the virus: a worker at Dearborn Stamping, which was among the plants slated to reopen April 14, and a skilled trades member of the Ford Data Center in Dearborn, Mich.
"Today's decision by Ford is the right decision for our members, their families and our nation," UAW President Rory Gamble said in the Ford statement. "Under Vice President Gerald Kariem, the UAW Ford Department continues to work closely with our local unions and Ford to make sure that as we return to production all members are safe, and our communities are protected from this spreading pandemic."
Gamble and union leaders originally pushed the Detroit 3 automakers to shutter their plants earlier this month. Gamble also expressed concern when that target was announced.
Despite the indefinite closure, Ford will open its Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, Mich., the week of April 20 to begin production of ventilators in partnership with GE Healthcare. The automaker will use 500 paid UAW volunteers on 3 shifts to build 50,000 ventilators by July 4, then 30,000 per month after that.