Tornado-damaged parts plant may not disrupt auto production

DETROIT (AP) — A tornado strike at a critical parts supply plant in South Carolina may not disrupt auto production as badly as feared.

Both Toyota and Fiat Chrysler said Thursday that they do not expect damage to a BorgWarner factory in Seneca, South Carolina, to have an impact on manufacturing.

BorgWarner makes transfer cases for full-size pickup trucks at the plant, which was severely damaged by an April 13 tornado that killed a factory security guard. Transfer cases shift power to a second drive shaft to run all-wheel-drive vehicles.

The plant supplies parts for Ford F-Series pickup trucks, the top-selling vehicle in the U.S., as well as Fiat Chrysler’s Ram pickups and Toyota’s Tundra.

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Chris Reynolds, Toyota’s chief administrative officer for manufacturing in North America, told reporters that BorgWarner has taken “a bunch of countermeasures” that have been effective, and that Toyota had some parts stockpiled.

“We do not see that yet affecting our plans to initiate production on May 4,” Reynolds said.

Toyota and other automakers shut down their factories about a month ago to stop the spread of coronavirus, and most are seeking to restart production in the next couple of weeks.

In a statement, Fiat Chrysler also said it does not expect any impact on plans to restart plants, also scheduled for May 4.

Ford, in a filing last week with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said it doesn’t have enough information to predict when the BorgWarner factory resume operations.

In a statement Thursday the company said it’s working with BorgWarner to manage the problem and determine next steps.

The plant also makes transfer cases for highly profitable Ford SUVs and commercial vans.

Nine people were killed South Carolina during an outbreak of twisters.

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