Ford Motor said Tuesday it plans to begin reopening its European plants next week with new global safety protocols to limit the spread of Covid-19, providing a potential template for reopening its U.S. operations.
The European plants have been shuttered since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, which caused a rolling shutdown of its manufacturing plants globally beginning in January in China. Other major markets such as Europe and the U.S., remain shuttered.
Shares of Ford were up more than 3% Tuesday. The company's stock is down 43% in 2020.
Ford said its plants in Europe will be brought up gradually with new global standards on social distancing and employee health and safety actions. Measures include mandatory face masks and, in some cases, shields; body temperature checks of everyone entering the facilities; completion of a daily wellness self-assessment process; and redesigned work areas for social distancing.
All are processes the company is expected to implement in some form when production restarts in the United States. U.S. plants for Ford, General Motors and other automakers have been down since last month due to Covid-19.
A Ford spokeswoman recently told CNBC the company would assess the best practices of all of its global operations when considering how to restart U.S. production, which is expected as early as next month.
Ford also said it will provide employees in Europe with a personal care kit that includes disposable face masks, a reusable thermometer and other hygiene items.
European production will start at a low level, prioritizing sold customer vehicle orders from dealers, and will gradually "be ramped-up over the next few months" before full production is resumed, Ford said.
Ford employees at nonproduction locations in Europe also will start to return in a phased approach from May 4, Ford said.
Ford operates 19 manufacturing facilities in Europe, including joint ventures, employing about 59,000 people.