Defying predictions of weeks-long delays, Ford said production of America's best-selling vehicle, the F-150 pickup, will resume Friday.
The production line of the popular truck will restart after shutting down May 9 following a fire at the factory of a key supplier.
The start-up will bring the Dearborn, Mich., Truck Plant back on Friday, the automaker said. It will be followed by a resumption of F-150 production at the Kansas City Assembly Plant and of the heavy-duty version, called the Super Duty, at the Kentucky Truck Plant, on Monday, Ford executives announced Wednesday.
Besides the F-150 and Super Duty, the fire at Meridian Magnesium Products in Eaton Rapids, Mich., also affected SUV production, including the Expedition, Explorer, Flex and Lincoln Navigator and MKT, the company said in a statement.
Ford described a huge effort to restart production of the key components idled by the fire. Teams removed 19 dies from Meridian’s badly damaged facility. They also chartered a Russian-built Antonov An-124, one of the world's largest cargo jets, to move an 87,000-pound die from Eaton Rapids to Nottingham, England, over the span of just 30 hours.
In addition, Meridian is producing truck parts again in the undamaged portions of its Eaton Rapids factory.
“We’re firing up our die-cast machines. We’re trying to meet Ford’s timelines,” said Benjamin Wu, chief legal officer and public affairs director for Meridian Magnesium Products of America.
The plant makes supports for radiators. After the fire, some experts and officials predicted the Meridian plant could be closed for several weeks.
The disruption affected the jobs of 7,600 Ford workers in Dearborn and Missouri.
A massive fire not only disrupted Ford, but production for General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and Mercedes as well. It triggered unplanned layoffs throughout the United States.
"Progress is moving forward quickly at the plant,” Eaton Rapids City Manager Aaron Desentz. “From our standpoint, the company is well on their way to normal operations sooner than previously estimated. This means that many people will be returning to work very soon and disruptions to key supply chains will be short-lived."
Up to 250 people in the small town were out of work because of the fire.