Twister Trashes BorgWarner Plant; Volkswagen Receives Close Call

Powerful tornadoes ripped through the U.S. South and Southeast late Sunday and into the early morning hours of Monday, leaving behind a toll in human lives and property damage that’s still being assessed.

As the country—and world—suffers through the many disruptions borne of the coronavirus pandemic, one can’t forget that more conventional natural disasters, in all their power and fickleness, are capable of wreaking havoc on industries and supply chains, too.

Recall the plant shutdowns and supply chain issues that arose after various natural disasters in Japan during the past decade. The U.S. manufacturing landscape is far more spread out, preventing it from suffering too much when nature turns ugly (though a virus counts as nature, we suppose).

Today, supplier BorgWarner announced the death of a contractor who was working in its Seneca, SC assembly plant when it received what looks to be a direct hit from a tornado. The twister struck at 3:35 a.m., WBTV reports. Photos of the plant, which manufactures transfer cases for automotive all-wheel-drive systems, is missing most of its roof, with exterior walls and pillars buckled or missing altogether. A wreck, in other words.

“Local authorities in Seneca responded quickly and are working with us to ensure that what remains of the building has been secured so we can complete an assessment,” a spokeswoman told Crain’s Detroit Business. The parts giant did not list the automakers that use the Seneca-built components.

BorgWarner’s Seneca plant has seen considerable investment and several expansions in recent years. The company’s U.S. plants went dark in late March as a result of the coronavirus.

On the other side of the Appalachians, an EF-3 tornado touched down in the eastern suburbs of Chattanooga, TN late last night. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports eight dead and 150 injured, with the twister carving a wide damage path that roughly paralleled I-75 to the north. Damage maps provided by the paper shows Volkswagen’s lone U.S. assembly plant escaping by about a mile.

As a result of the pandemic, last week VW announced plans to furlough 2,500 workers at the plant for a period not exceeding four weeks.

[Image: BorgWarner]
a version of this article first appeared on TTAC