Ford Motor Co. dodged what could have been a serious disruption to the production of its most profitable vehicles, including the F-150 pickup.
The automaker, despite the coronavirus pandemic, had repair teams on the ground 12 hours after a tornado earlier this month ripped through a BorgWarner factory in Seneca, S.C., that supplies transfer cases to Ford’s pickups and large SUVs.
Although Ford filed a notice with the Securities and Exchange Commission noting production could be disrupted, its head of manufacturing said Thursday he’s not expecting any impact by the time Ford’s factories — shuttered by the coronavirus — resume operations.
“The recovery that BorgWarner’s been able to do, with us supporting them, has been fantastic,” Gary Johnson, Ford’s chief manufacturing and labor affairs officer, told Automotive News. “I’m extremely confident that when we start up our systems in the U.S. and North America, BorgWarner will support them. The risk is dropping every day.”
The supplier plans to resume limited production at the plant in early May. BorgWarner supplies transfer cases for the F-150, as well as the four-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions of the Expedition, Super Duty, Explorer and Transit and the Lincoln Navigator and Aviator.
“We can’t re-source it,” Johnson said. “The decision was made to help retrofit the plant to make it viable to come back.”
He said members of Ford’s IT team helped rebuild computer rooms and other Ford workers helped repair the plant’s roof.
BorgWarner employees have been routinely posting updates on Facebook about their many accomplishments at the site.
The company on Wednesday released this statement:
“BorgWarner can confirm that we are planning to resume limited production in early May at our … facility which was impacted by a tornado in the early morning hours of Monday, April 13th. We have teams onsite working on necessary repairs to the facility to make this happen in a safe and efficient way. We appreciate the support of the Oconee community and the State of South Carolina, our neighbors and our customers during this time.”
This isn’t the first time Ford has scrambled to save F-150 production.
The company in late 2018 was among the first on site after a fire destroyed a supplier plant in Michigan that also supplied its prized pickup.
Workers pitched tents as they waited for access to the facility. Once inside, they extracted 19 large tools over 48 hours and moved them to other sites, at one point renting a rare Russian cargo jet to transport a heavy die to a plant in the U.K.