The disruption caused by a tornado that severely damaged a South Carolina auto-parts plant and killed a contract security guard last week could be felt by more automakers than just Ford and affect more than just its best-selling F-Series pickup, which is due for an update. And there’s still no estimate for when operations might resume at the plant.
The Detroit Free Press reports that the BorgWarner plant in Seneca, near Greenville, makes transfer cases for F-150 and Super Duty pickups, the Ford Explorer and Expedition, Transit cargo vans, and Lincoln Navigator and Aviator SUVs. It’s also a supplier for the Ram 1500 and Toyota Tundra trucks. Transfer cases shift power from the transmission to the front and rear axles in four-wheel-drive vehicles.
BorgWarner says it still has no update for when it might partially or fully resume operations. The tornado that ripped through the area in the western part of the state on April 13 tore the roof, walls and signage off the factory and killed a 77-year-old contract worker when the security building he was sheltering in collapsed. Only four or five others were inside the plant, which has been idled because of the coronavirus outbreak, when the tornado struck.
In an SEC filing on Friday, Ford said it has sent employees to the site to help BorgWarner and assess the damage to Ford’s tooling. “Initial assessments indicate that the Ford tooling was not materially damaged in this incident,” Ford said in the filing. “We do not have sufficient information to estimate when the facility will be back on-line or whether or the extent to which this incident will impact our plans to resume production of four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles.”
A Fiat Chrysler spokeswoman also told the Freep the company was working with BorgWarner on recovery plans. A Toyota spokesman told Autoblog that “we are collaborating with BorgWarner to help restore production for transfer cases for Tundra assembly. We are confident that they’ll fully recover over time.”
Like other automakers, Ford shut down production at its U.S. plants last month as a precaution against the coronavirus pandemic. But Ford hasn’t yet said when it plans to reopen its factories. FCA is targeting May 4 to resume production.
Models like the F-150 and Lincoln Navigator are major sources of profit for Ford, which estimated it lost $2 billion in the first quarter. Meanwhile, Ford has been planning to unveil an updated version of the F-150, though a launch event for the media scheduled for later this month was reportedly postponed because of the coronavirus crisis.
Spy shots from February showed the 2021 F-150 lightly camouflaged and sporting a redesigned front fascia and exterior. A hybrid version with a 3.5-liter V6 is also rumored.
Ford in 2018 had to temporarily suspend production of its F-Series trucks after a fire damaged a plant operated by a supplier of magnesium components.