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Ford backtracks on US production restart date, Fiat Chrysler still eyes April

Ford, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors all shut its North American production operations down this month amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Ford Kansas City production plant
The Kansas City plant is one of a few key plants Ford hopes to bring back online.
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Ford hoped to put employees back to work on production lines in the US on April 14, but on March 31, it said that's not going to be the case after all.

The automaker said on Tuesday it decided to extend its production suspension. On March 26 Ford said it planned to call workers back to a few key production facilities across the US to restart work on April 14, but said Tuesday further postponement was necessary to protect its employees. A new return-to-work date wasn't announced.

The coronavirus has turned goals into moving targets. The virus, which causes COVID-19, led to 93% of all US production halted this month as numerous automakers sent workers home to slow the spread. Automakers are also prepared for a hefty dip in demand as production aims to restart.

If things begin to look up and Ford feels it's appropriate, the company plans to restart operations at its Dearborn Truck Plant, Kentucky Truck Plant, Kansas City Assembly Plant's Transit line and Ohio Assembly Plant. Work may also resume at a number of support plants, including a stamping plant and second manufacturing plant in Dearborn, Michigan, integrated stamping plants in the Kentucky and Kansas City plants and a transmission plant in Ohio.

Portions of the Van Dyke, Lima and Rawsonville plants in Michigan and Ohio are also on Ford's list to reopen.

FCA said last week its work to reopen plants will come based on plant readiness and follow various shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders state governments introduced recently. This applies to the US and Canada, but the automaker didn't name specific plants it hopes to bring back online first. So far, the automaker hasn't indicated it plans to push its production stoppage back as Ford has.

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Ford made it clear that it will continually assess the COVID-19 pandemic situation and adjust these plans as needed. When employees do return, workers should expect enhanced safety measures at the plants to keep them safe and healthy. During the shutdown, Ford said every North American facility will undergo a deep clean and intense sanitation measures. It also announced plans to support health care workers on the front lines and will 3D-print face shields, finalize a new respirator design with 3M and build a simplified ventilator with GE. FCA plans to manufacture masks at one of its plants in China and donate them to health care workers.

First published March 26.
Update, March 31: Updated to reflect Ford's latest production decisions.