Ford now expects no production disruption from tornado-damaged supplier

Sven Gustafson



Auto supplier BorgWarner plans to resume limited production at a South Carolina plant that supplies a critical transmission component for several highly profitable Ford trucks and SUVs after it sustained heavy damage from a tornado last month.

For its part, Ford believes it has dodged a bullet, having warned in an SEC filing of possible disruption to its own production plans. The plant in Seneca, S.C. makes transfer cases for vehicles including the best-selling F-150 and Super Duty pickups, and four- and all-wheel drive versions of the Expedition and Explorer SUVs and the Lincoln Navigator. The April 13 tornado ripped the roof off the plant, caused a partial collapse and killed a 77-year-old overnight security guard.

Ford told Automotive News it had repair teams onsite 12 hours after the tornado struck to aid in damage assessment and recovery efforts. They helped retrofit the plant, rebuild and roof and computer rooms, and the automaker now expects no disruption to its own production plans. “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,” Gary Johnson, Ford’s chief manufacturing and labor affairs officer, told AN.

BorgWarner said only that it planned to resume production at the plant in early May. “We have teams onsite working on necessary repairs to the facility to make this happen in a safe and efficient way,” spokeswoman Michelle Collins told The Greenville News.

Meanwhile, Ford on Thursday said it’s ready to resume production at its shuttered North American plants as soon as government leaders give the OK. Ford did not set any hard dates for re-opening plants, but it said it would follow health and safety practices already employed at Ford plants in China and at its U.S. facilities that are currently making coronavirus medical supplies. The protocols include conducting no-touch temperature scans of each employee upon arrival and requiring face masks for every worker. A limited number of hourly and salaried workers have already returned to work this week installing equipment and safety protocols.

Ford has said it will begin reopening plants in Europe on May 4.