Ford CEO explains safety precautions in place as plants reopen

When Ford Motor Co restarts at plants on Monday it will be anything but business as usual.

 Ford CEO Jim Hackett spoke about the changes the workers will see.

"It's optimistic times, because spring in the air, and it feels like a new start for our industry" Hackett said.

 As the automaker gears up for reopening, Ford's top boss is beaming with pride and optimism. ford and GE Healthcare teamed up to make 50,000 ventilators in late March. It was an act of stepping up when the country needed them - which is something Hackett says is part of Ford's history and culture. 

"When building the B-52 bomber, one every 52 seconds, before that incubators, and I saw a thousand people volunteer to go in and build these ventilators in the earliest days," Hackett said. "We have never had an issue with the virus with any of those folks. I couldn't be more proud of the contribution they've made. Our dealers have continued to work in this period."


Hackett has been the CEO of Ford for three years. He has seen his challenges as a boss outside of Ford from his time at Procter & Gamble to Grand Rapids-based Steel Case. But turning off the U.S. economy is something he has never seen. 

"Calamities like 9/11, I lived through that. but we never, ever, in modern times ever turned the economy off," he said. "So the idea of going off was difficult, going on is even more difficult because at the time we turned off, people weren't really sure what the virus was.
"Now with all the terrible toll it's enacted on our people in Detroit, they rightfully have concerns about safety."

Starting the economic engine of the auto company Hackett leads his team into uncharted territory. The plan is keeping workers safe from a virus on the factory floor. It's not a switch but a dial that will slowly open things back up. 

"It is one of the most important things epidemiologists cite, is to try and keep that distance," he said. "For example, an assembly line job, people would pair up in the vehicle, it was moving. We now have to you know eliminate that as part of the sequencing of putting things together. But I also think the screening process will happen repetitiously. In fact, everyone should be looking forward to testing that will start to come. Testing will give us an additional layer of security as we get reliable tests here early in the summer."

Looking ahead he's especially hopeful about the launch of new trucks and SUV projects that were in the pipeline that was jammed because of COVID-19. 

"All of our new ideas - the F-150, the MACH E and a new Bronco family are all going to be staged to come. So it is going to be an exciting time for Ford Motor Company."