Ford at one point estimated that it was going to lose $US5 (A$7) billion due to the pandemic, and even though it later said the number turned out to be $US1.9 ($3) billion, the factory shutdowns really did look for a time like an existential threat. Which means, going forward, Ford will do almost anything to avoid that again. Which is how the company found itself ordering ultra-cold freezers this week. It’s been a weird year.
Ford has ordered 12 of them, according to Reuters. The freezers are needed to store the vaccine being developed by Pfizer. That vaccine needs to be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit, or a lot colder than a typical freezer goes down to. The freezers won’t set Ford back that much money — Reuters says they typically cost up to $US15,000 ($20,405) each, or up to $US180,000 ($244,854) for a dozen of them, which is pocket change for a company like Ford — but as a symbol for how strange everything’s gotten they are hard to beat.
“We’re doing this so that we can make the vaccine available to our employees on a voluntary basis,” Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker said.
Details of how Ford will use the freezers, which are expected to be delivered by year end, are still being worked out, she said.
Felker did not know which company is supplying Ford with the freezers. Some specialty freezer makers have warned of months-long waits for units.
Autoworkers won’t be the first to get the vaccine, of course — that would be healthcare workers — but Ford wants to be able to hit the ground running when the vaccine is more widely available and, thinking more long-term, avoid COVID-19 shutdowns for good. That the vaccines will be “voluntary” is somewhat interesting, though I have to imagine most if not all of Ford’s workers will go running toward getting the vaccine the moment it is available to them. Or at least I would.