Nature strikes again.
The Ford F-150 has been and remains the Blue Oval's best-selling vehicle and is therefore critical to its bottom line. However, a new problem has arisen that could spell trouble in the weeks and months ahead and it has absolutely nothing to do with the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Associated Press, a tornado struck and severely damaged the BorgWarner factory in Seneca, South Carolina last week, and this facility plays a key role in the F-150's supply chain. It produces transfer cases for not only the F-150, but also the Ford Explorer and Expedition, and Lincoln Aviator and Navigator SUVs.
Fortunately, specific equipment used to build these transfer cases was not "materially damaged" by the twister strike, but neither Ford nor BorgWarner know when the factory as a whole will be back up and running.
Ford's US factories have been shut down for a month because of COVID-19, but there have been continued negotiations with the UAW and coordination with state and the federal government to get them back online early next month, though that's subject to change. The Ford F-150 is built in Kansas City, Missouri and Dearborn, Michigan while the Expedition and Navigator are made in Kentucky. The Explorer and Aviator are built in Illinois.
But without transfer cases coming in from South Carolina, production probably can't be completed whenever those plants come back online, though Ford added it doesn't know just yet whether "this incident will impact our plans to resume production of four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles."
Ford has already announced it'll post around a $2 billion first-quarter loss later this month. "We are working closely with the supplier to manage the situation and to determine the next steps," Ford said last week. BorgWarner added it is working on plans "as quickly as possible" to get the factory up and running again.
Normally, 200 people would have been working at the BorgWarner plant at the time when the tornado struck, but it's been closed due to the coronavirus. Only five people were inside at the time, though a security guard stationed outside was killed when the building he was in collapsed.