What happened

Shares of Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) closed down on Tuesday, after comments from the United Auto Workers labor union (UAW) gave auto investors some concerns about the likely timing of factory reopenings in North America. 

Ford's shares ended the day down 4.3% from Monday's closing price.

So what

Here's the background: Ford and its Detroit rivals have been working with the UAW to come up with a plan to reopen their U.S. factories, which have been closed since mid-March. 

It's not clear how those negotiations have been going, but in a statement last Friday, UAW president Rory Gamble offered a clue: He said that he wouldn't sign off on any plan unless it guaranteed that workers who feel sick will be able to report their symptoms and self-quarantine without penalty (or put another way, with full pay). 

A worker attended to a partially-assembled 2020 Ford Explorer at Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant last year.

Ford's new Explorer was in high demand early in 2020, but the company can't make any right now. Image source: Ford Motor Company.

While it's likely that Ford and its rivals will end up signing off on something like that, the fact that Gamble felt that he needed to go public suggests that negotiations might not be going as smoothly (and that plants might not reopen as quickly) as investors would hope. 

The pressure here is immense. On the one hand, Ford and the other automakers genuinely want to do the right things to keep workers safe. On the other hand, with most of its factories outside of China closed, Ford is burning roughly $165 million a day.

We should note that this isn't just a Ford issue: General Motors' (NYSE:GM) stock also closed down today, likely for the same reasons. 

Now what

Ford has plenty of cash, but it won't last forever. Worried auto investors are eager to hear that there's a plan to reopen factories before too long. 

The good news is that Ford will report its first-quarter earnings in just a week, on Tuesday, April 28. I expect that CEO Jim Hackett and his new chief operating officer, Jim Farley, will have at least the outline of a factory start-up plan to share with investors at that time.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.