Select Ford factory employees are currently wearing Samsung smartwatches that buzz when two people come within six feet of each other. Others are wearing masks and clear face shields, and some are wearing all three. The new pieces of the worker uniforms are measures to attempt to keep everybody safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and help avoid the spread of the coronavirus. These steps have been implemented as Ford makes ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE), not cars, for the time being. Norah O'Donnell and 60 Minutes recently sat down with Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford, Jr., as well as General Motors (GM) CEO Mary Barra, to discuss the current state of automotive manufacturing and the path forward.
Since March, the federal government agreed to a $336 million contract with Ford and GE Healthcare and a $489.4 million contract with GM to build ventilators that are needed in the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak. GM is expected to deliver 30,000 units by the end of August and Ford is expected to delivery 50,000 units by July 13.
Ventilators and PPE are the only products that have come out of Ford's and GM's manufacturing facilities in more than a month, as just about every automotive production line outside of China has been shut down for more than a month. Only in the coming weeks will manufacturers begin to reopen their plants with strict guidelines, as well as extra testing. Mercedes-Benz planned to open its Alabama plant today, while Ford and GM hope to reopen some lines around May 4.
The interrupted product lines and current financial recession have left Ford and GM burning cash. Ford says it lost roughly $2 billion in the first quarter, and according to a 60 Minutes-reported estimate, the company is spending about $165 million per day. The strenuous times have forced both Ford and GM to tap into billions of dollars in credit to stay on course, but Mary Barra references a strong balance sheet as a reason why "we will get through this." Similarly, Ford Jr. does not believe a bailout or loan will be necessary to keep Ford moving.
The clips above and below show small portions of the 60 Minutes chat. Watch the full report, including discussions about the protests in Michigan, at CBS News.