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Ford, GMC, Honda to re-open plants in April

Ford Motors is going back to work. The company announced Thursday that it is restarting production in April of its most profitable vehicles. The move is to generate cash that has been made scarce during the Chinese coronavirus pandemic and the closure of its plants.

What cities have Ford plants that will open?

That will be good news for workers in Kansas City, Chicago, Louisville, plus plans in Ohio and Michigan. Ford’s Kansas City Claycomo plant is the company’s largest and makes the popular F-150.

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The No. 2 U.S. automaker was poised to restart production at some of those as early as April 6, bringing back such profitable vehicles as its top-selling F-150 full-sized pickup, the Transit commercial van and SUVs.

Meanwhile, to further conserve cash a day after Standard & Poor’s downgraded the Dearborn, Michigan-based company’s debt to “junk” status and warned more downgrades could be necessary, Ford also announced belt-tightening moves, including cutting the salaries of top executives.

“The actions we’re taking now are wide-ranging and substantial,” Chief Executive Jim Hackett told employees in an email early on Thursday. “We hope they will be enough to give Ford the financial flexibility to ride out the economic and business effects of the coronavirus.”

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The pandemic caused by the coronavirus has forced the shutdown of auto plants around the world as companies attempt to curtail the spread of the disease among factory employees.

The outbreak has put pressure on companies, including Ford, which previously drew down credit lines to build its cash position and suspended its dividend.

President Donald Trump, concerned about the economic repercussions of an extended shutdown, has said he hopes America can get back to business by Easter, or April 12, suggesting some efforts to slow the spread of the outbreak will no longer be needed by then.

The pandemic team said this week that some areas of the country will reopen before others, noting that the high density areas like New York, Los Angeles and others may take longer to get back to normal.

The news comes as a godsend to small businesses in thousands of communities who are struggling for survival.

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Like small businesses, large corporations are also feeling the pinch.

To get more cash coming in, Ford said Thursday it would restart key plants, while introducing additional safety measures to protect returning workers from the coronavirus.

Ford said it would detail the additional measures later.

Ford also took additional moves to conserve cash, announcing its top 300 executives would defer up to 50 percent of salaries for at least five months starting May 1, with the executive chairman deferring his entire salary. Hackett will defer half his salary.

Hackett said Ford’s goal was to avoid layoffs during the crisis, but warned that could change if the impact of the outbreak is more severe than anticipated.

General Motors Co and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCA) previously said they would shut down their North American operations through March 30 and then reassess after that.

Japanese automaker Honda on Thursday said it would resume work at its U.S. and Canadian plants on April 7 after extending its shutdown beyond March 30.

Ford plans to begin production at several plants include on one shift at its Hermosillo, Mexico, assembly plant, where it builds the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans.

It will restart production on April 14 at its Dearborn plants that build the F-150 and a Kentucky plant that makes the Super Duty version of the pickup as well as the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs.

The Ford Transit van line at its Kansas City, Missouri, plant, the Ohio plant that builds Econoline vans and heavy duty trucks, and several stamping, transmission and parts plants also will restart on that day.

–Wire services and Staff