Ford on Friday said the temporary suspension of vehicle and engine production at most of its European manufacturing sites is now expected to run at least until 4 May.

The announcement followed earlier announcements production would be suspended temporarily from 19 March for a number of weeks at the main continental European manufacturing sites (Saarlouis and Cologne, Germany; Valencia, Spain; and Craiova, Romania), with production also halted at Bridgend and Dagenham engine plants in the UK from 23 March. Valencia, Spain, will remain in temporary suspension until at least 27 April.

"It's important we give our employees as much clarity as possible on how long the present situation is likely to continue," said Stuart Rowley, president, Ford of Europe.

"We are hopeful the situation will improve in the coming month; our plans to restart operations, however, will continue to be informed by prevailing conditions and guidance of national governments."

Ford said its production restart plans depend heavily on the pandemic situation in the weeks ahead, national restrictions in operation at the time, supplier constraints and the ability of its dealer network to operate.

The company's 'return to work' plan also will encompass appropriate measures on social distancing and other health and safety protocols to protect its workforce.

Current work arrangements in place for employees supporting production activities, as well as those still performing critical roles at non manufacturing sites who are working remotely, will continue.

The automaker is supporting national initiatives and community-focused activities. These range from manufacturing medical equipment such as facemasks and ventilators to providing camp beds to health personnel and donating vehicles for a number of uses including the distribution of critical medical services, food deliveries and emergency transport.

The Ford Fund announced this week a new global initiative to match employee donations and benefit charities in six European markets.

In addition to the suspension of its production sites, most other Ford operations across Europe have been paused at this time except for a small number of business-critical activities.