Trashed by a Twister and Crucial to Ford, a BorgWarner Plant Struggles to Get Back on Its Feet

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
trashed by a twister and crucial to ford a borgwarner plant struggles to get back on

A South Carolina assembly plant that took major damage from a tornado back on April 13th is making headway in returning to production. It’s still a long way from normal, but the plant’s promise of “limited production” in the coming weeks should be music to the ears of Ford, which relies on the Seneca, SC facility for components for its biggest-margin vehicles.

It still isn’t known when exactly Ford plans to restart vehicle assembly in the U.S., but May 18th has been floated as a possibility. In Seneca, the tornado-toppled BorgWarner plant, builder of transfer cases for 4×4 systems, could be back in business by that point. Sort of.

As reported by Automotive News, the facility aims to reach limited production by early May, with a plant spokesperson saying, “We have teams on-site working on necessary repairs to the facility to make this happen in a safe and efficient way.”

An elderly security guard was killed in the early morning hours of April 13th after the twister took aim at the sprawling plant, located near the Georgia and Tennessee borders. Packing winds of 160 mph, the EF-3 tornado ripped the roof and walls from much of the building’s envelope, causing untold mayhem inside.

Both BorgWarner and Ford, which uses Seneca-supplied transfer cases for the F-150 and Expedition, among other big-bucks models, said the plant and the equipment inside was not a write-off. However, neither could initially say how long the plant would be offline. As Ford grapples with a shock to its finances caused by the coronavirus pandemic, maintaining a steady flow of popular, high-margin vehicles to Americans slowly emerging from lockdown will be crucial to its recovery.

Toyota is also known to source transfer cases from Seneca for its Tundra full-size pickup, and the same goes for Ram and its 1500 (per the Associated Press). Clearly, a crucial component from a plant knocked offline during an already trying time.

BorgWarner took to Facebook on Wednesday to inform employees that some workers will be called back to the plant next week. “The rumors are true … we are officially restarting next week with LIMITED PRODUCTION,” the company wrote.

How many workers will be needed, and what kind of output the plant can manage given its present condition, remains to be seen. With vehicle sales depressed by the pandemic (though not nearly as much as you’d think, in the case of full-size pickups), perhaps the disaster’s timing can be seen as a silver lining. Existing inventory — and perhaps new builds made with whatever transfer cases still remain on site — could be enough to satisfy demand until BorgWarner gets its act together in full.


[Image: Ford]

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  • JMII So this pretty much confirms the long standing rumor that the C8 platform was designed for hybrid AWD support. If this is even faster then the current Z06 it will be a true rocket ship. GM was already hinting that even more impressive C8 was coming, most assume a turbo ZR1 but an e-assist AWD package seems more like... and apparently it will be called E-Ray.
  • Tassos the announcement is unnecessarily verbose, aka full of it. Most 'justifications" for the shutdown are shameless lies.
  • Jwee I can post images...?????
  • Jwee @Bobby D'OppoThere is no element of the reported plan that involves taking people's carsSeems like you missed the Southpark reference: comment was humor (or humour if you prefer). The city council is not literally taking people's cars, but seems like they wouldn't mind a drop in car ownership. More cyclists! Less pollution! More public transport! A £70 fine per violation! Surely if they came out and said "we are going to take your car", they would get a very stern letter written to them in the strongest language possible, or perhaps even called a bunch of rotters. I am all for good transport networks, but this is just a terrible plan. Visit Amsterdam, and study how to manage traffic skillfully in a dense, medieval city, with no traffic cameras whatsoever, with first rate public transport, where pedestrians, bikes, boats and cars coexist.
  • Tassos with 170k+ miles, and over 15 years old, this vehicle has had a full life. Maybe it's time for the scrapyard.