There’s no question that the automotive industry is going through a particularly rough patch. One could safely say that COVID-19 has thrust us into an unprecedented situation, given the fact that cars and trucks weren’t quite as integral to our daily lives in 1918, the last time the United States faced a pandemic of this size, as they are today. But the Coronavirus outbreak has also shed some positive light on certain aspects of the automotive manufacturing industry, as Ford Chairman Bill Ford explained in a fascinating 60 Minutes interview.
60 Minutes correspondent Norah O’Donnell spoke with Bill Ford at the company’s Rawsonville plant in Ypsilanti, which is currently manufacturing ventilators under non-profit contracts with the federal government. Ford is partnering in the effort with GE Healthcare, and expects to deliver 50,000 of the much-needed medical devices by mid-July.
According to Bill Ford, the automaker “immediately jumped into action and began working with healthcare providers to identify needs and how the carmaker could help” following the outbreak. It’s a true testament to Ford’s unique ability to shift its manufacturing processes on the fly. And a reminder that manufacturing itself is still a critical component in the U.S. “The lesson is that manufacturing really matters, and it matters to this country in good times when people may not be thinking of it and times when the country really needs it,” Ford said.
O’Donnell also touched on the future, asking Ford how the current crisis might affect the company in the short and long-term. Bill Ford was quick to dismiss the need for a government bailout similar to the ones handed out to GM and Chrysler in 2008 following the recession, but admitted that it’s too early to accurately predict the aftermath of COVID-19.
In the meantime, Ford is focused on producing much-needed medical equipment and reopening its production facilities, which already took place in China in March, in Europe on May 4th, and will take place in the U.S. on May 18th.
“We’d all like to get back to work soon, but we have to do it safely. That’s not a political question, that’s a scientific question,” Ford stated.