May 1, 2020 - Economy & Business

Ford CEO on weathering coronavirus: "Don't waste a crisis"

James Hackett. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic couldn't have hit Ford at a worse time — midway through a restructuring effort, with several critical vehicle debuts just around the corner.

Why it matters: With its factories closed and car demand sharply lower, it's more important than ever for Ford to get the company back on track quickly so it can weather the storm.

  • But some analysts are worried about what they see as a lack of urgency after Ford posted a $2 billion Q1 loss and predicted it would lose another $5 billion or more this quarter.
  • Pressed during an earnings call about whether Ford would accelerate its restructuring actions in light of the pandemic, CEO James Hackett acknowledged "one truth, right? Don't waste a crisis." But he offered no new plans.

What they're saying: "While the cash burn dynamics were in-line with what we had modeled, Ford did not appear to have a firm grasp on how it might accelerate restructuring actions to offset what could be a lower sales environment even post-lockdowns," Barclays analyst Brian Johnson wrote in a note to clients.

By the numbers: Ford has $35 billion in cash after recent borrowings, enough to last through the year if there's a prolonged crisis, CFO Tim Stone said.

  • So far, none of the Detroit automakers appears to be in need of a bailout.

For the record: Ford still owes the federal government $1.5 billion for government loans it received during the last crisis in 2009.

What we're watching: It's not clear when Ford will reopen its U.S. manufacturing plants but every day that it's not producing cars means more red ink.

  • Ford's European factories are scheduled to gradually resume production starting Monday.

Go deeper: Ford's big year upended by coronavirus

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Why it matters: Cities can't come close to resuming normal economic activity until large numbers of people feel comfortable using public transportation.

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