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Coronavirus: U.S. Auto Manufacturers Ramping Up Efforts to Produce Ventilators, Masks

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With the global coronavirus crisis raging, car manufacturers have slowed down or even stopped production of vehicles. Which means many are now in a position to assist the authorities in order to provide the equipment that’s needed to protect health care workers and patients.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that U.S. automakers GM, Ford and Tesla have been given the green light to produce ventilators and other equipment needed in connection with the coronavirus outbreak. In fact, several companies have been working together to this end for some time.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), General Motors (GM) and Ford made announcements yesterday or today, but many others, Tesla for instance, are working on their own strategies to make use of their production capabilities.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has announced that it will produce masks for first responders and health care workers. The company plans to supply more than one million units per month. Production capacity is being prepared this week and manufacturing will begin in the coming weeks. The first wave of distribution will be reserved for the United States, Canada and Mexico.
The masks will be donated by FCA to police, paramedics and firefighters, as well as hospital and health-care clinic workers. This action is the first of a complex global program that the company is implementing by applying its manufacturing, supply chain and engineering capabilities and expertise to support the global fight against the pandemic.

“Protecting our first responders and health care workers has never been more important. In addition to the support we are giving to increase the production of ventilators, we canvassed our contacts across the healthcare industry and it was very clear that there is an urgent and critical need for face masks. We’ve marshalled the resources of the FCA Group to focus immediately on installing production capacity for making masks and supporting those most in need on the front line of this pandemic.”

- Mike Manley, FCA CEO

FCA will work with national, regional and municipal authorities to ensure donated masks are directed to the people and facilities that need them most. The company will unveil further actions related to the fight against the Coronavirus in the coming days.

Photo: Ventec

GM and medical equipment manufacturer Ventec are accelerating their efforts through a partnership called Project V to build ventilators at a GM plant in Kokomo, Indiana, to help combat the epidemic.

As part of the effort, GM has arranged to supply of 95% of the parts needed to build the ventilators and is seeking to procure the remaining 37 needed parts. The company's target is to build up to 200 000 ventilators, according to sources who preferred to remain anonymous.

"Ventec Life Systems and General Motors have been working around the clock to implement plans to build more ventilators for intensive care units. With GM's support, Ventec is now planning to produce more ventilators exponentially, as quickly as possible.”

- Dan Flores, General Motors spokesperson

The first parts must be delivered by suppliers to GM by April 6, sources said. Suppliers could begin production "within the next two to three weeks." The date on which GM could start production has not yet been finalized.

Photo: Ford

Ford today announced it is working together with 3M, General Electric and the United Auto Workers union to ramp up production of masks, respirators and ventilators. Part of the company’s efforts will include using its 3D printing capabilities to produce components for use in personal protective equipment. In regards to masks, the company’s stated goal is to produce 100,000 units per week.

“This is such a critical time for America and the world. It is a time for action and cooperation. By coming together across multiple industries, we can make a real difference for people in need and for those on the front lines of this crisis. At Ford, we feel a deep obligation to step up and contribute in times of need, just as we always have through the 117-year history of our company.”

- Bill Ford, Ford’s executive chairman