‘Not sustainable’: Ford says Mexico’s virus curbs hurt US plants

Mexico’s Chihuahua state, home to Ford engine plant, has restricted employee attendance to 50 percent.

Ford Mexico
Mexico is a key part of an international supply chain crucial to US carmakers, including Ford, many of which operate factories across the border in Mexico due to lower labour costs [File: Carlos Jasso/Reuters]

Ford Motor Co said new staffing restrictions imposed on plants producing car parts in the Mexican state of Chihuahua are “not sustainable,” the latest sign United States-based automakers are still reeling from coronavirus lockdowns in Mexico.

Mexico is a key part of a wider international supply chain crucial to US carmakers, many of which operate factories across the border in Mexico due to lower labour costs.

Chihuahua, where the state government has limited employee attendance to 50 percent in plants, is home to a Ford engine plant and many car parts producers.

US Ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau said on Thursday that the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker might have to shut some US car plants as early as next week if they fail to receive Mexico-produced engines.

Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford’s Americas and International Markets Group, said the company had “several suppliers” operating under restrictions imposed by Chihuahua state.

“With our US plants running at 100 percent, that is not sustainable,” Galhotra said in an emailed statement.

“While we do not expect any impact to production next week, we are continuing to work with government officials on ways to safely and constructively resume remaining production,” he said.

Mexico’s federal government has given carmakers, mining firms and builders, with activities deemed essential, the green light to restart work, though some states have implemented their own restrictions as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.

Landau said a senior Ford executive told him on Wednesday night about the company’s concern over parts produced in Chihuahua state.

‘Shutting down’

“They’re saying that they’re going to start shutting down factories in the United States as of next week if they don’t get that rolling,” Landau said, in a talk organised by the Atlantic Council.

Alejandra de la Vega, Chihuahua’s minister of innovation and economic development, said she was in “constant contact” with Ford and spoke with a company executive on Thursday morning, but did not specify what was discussed.

De la Vega said Chihuahua had created a traffic light system to allow different sectors to gradually reopen from lockdowns, but added it was a “balancing act” to protect both public health and the economy.

In May, when Mexico signalled it would delay the reopening of its factories, Mexican officials said their US counterparts pushed for a speedy return, arguing that US plants on American soil could not operate without them.

Source: Reuters