In a recent call with investors to discuss updates of plans going forward, Tim Stone, Ford’s Chief Financial Officer, and Jim Hackett, Ford’s Chief Executive Officer, had a lot to say. The covered restarting production and the roll-out of expected new vehicles. This also included news of possible delays for the Bronco, Bronco Sport, and Mustang Mach-E.
The “off” switch
In reference to the global pandemic and the need to quarantine the masses in response to COVID-19, Jim Hackett said, “Who knew there was an off-switch.” But that’s exactly what happened. The world’s Coronavirus response was to shut down on a scale never before seen. So, now the question facing the industry is how to proceed. Automotive manufacturers have been monitoring the spread of the disease, the hot spots, and the places where the rate of infection has flattened, in order to determine where they will restart production, how quickly they will restart it, and how they will protect their workers who go back to work.
In the call, Ford set May 4th as the return to work date in Europe. May 18th is the tentative date for restart in North America. But, these will not be restarts that are at a 100% production rate. According to Hackett, a gradual ramp-up could take a few months before everything is back at 100%. In the meantime, the health of workers will be monitored, and work processes adjusted as necessary. But that takes time.
So, what now?
The concerns around safely restarting production have, of course, had fans of expected new models scratching their heads. A few Ford models were expected to be launched this year. The production shutdowns, consequently have those fans asking what it all means for the expected new models.
It was already announced that the new F-150 was going to be delayed. Now comes word that other models are affected as well. The much-hyped Bronco is supposed to be a 2021 model. So, there may be time to adjust and prioritize schedules to make that happen. However, the smaller Bronco Sport, and the new electric SUV called the Mustang Mach-E were expected to be revealed this year.
This is what we know now. The Bronco Sport production has been delayed two months, meaning it will not start production until September. The Mustang Mach-E was originally expected to have deliveries in October 2020. But, European customers, whose manufacturing plants will restart prior to North America’s, are already reporting deliveries that are going to happen later. So, it follows that the North American deliveries will also experience a delay of some sort. But, no clear date was provided in the investor call.
Sadly, this is a complicated situation that all automakers are facing right now. Restarting production is not as simple as telling everybody to go back to work. New processes have to take into account worker health and safety to a different degree than ever before. So, a slow production ramp-up, as suggested in Ford’s investor call, is prudent and likely will be echoed by other manufacturers.
As much as automotive enthusiasts love the automotive industry, and look forward to launch dates, having those dates pushed back is more important right now. That extra time can allow manufacturers to possibly save lives by restarting work with well thought out, graduated plans that make sure as few people as possible can get infected by this still, incurable COVID-19. The Bronco, Bronco Sport, and Mustang Mach-E are going to have to wait.