Factories pivot to fight coronavirus, but challenges abound

In this Nov. 11, 2014 photo, Ron Hudgins welds a 2015 Ford F-150 cab at the Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Mich. General Motors, Ford, jet engine maker Rolls-Royce and other companies are talking to their governments about repurposing idled factories to produce vital goods to fight the coronavirus such as ventilators and surgical masks. On Friday, March 20, 2020 President Donald Trump invoked the Korean War-era Defense Production Act, allowing the government to marshal the private sector to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it allows the government to steer factories to overcome shortages, makers of heavy goods such as cars and trucks can't just flip a switch and produce something else.

DETROIT (AP) — Ford says it wants to reopen five North American assembly plants in April that were closed due to the threat of coronavirus.

The three Detroit automakers suspended production at North American factories one week ago under pressure from the United Auto Workers union, which had concerns about members working closely at work stations and possibly spreading the virus.

Union spokesman Brian Rothenberg said Thursday that the UAW is reviewing Ford's announcement “with great concern and caution.”

The company says it's aiming to reopen its factory in Hermosillo, Mexico, on April 6, followed by its Dearborn truck plant, Kentucky truck plant, the Ohio Assembly Plant and the Transit van line at the Kansas City plant on April 14. The factories were closed earlier this month under union pressure.

The company also wants to reopen parts-making plants to feed the assembly factories on the same day.

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