Manufacturers Ford and General Motors (GM) are joining the fight against COVID-19. The carmakers are partnering with medical supply producers to help scale the production of much-needed equipment.
This news comes after the large automakers agreed to suspend vehicle production as a precaution against the quickly-spreading virus. UAW President Rory Gamble applauded the move, saying, “This will give us time to review best practices and to prevent the spread of this disease. We appreciate General Motors’ actions today and will continue to work with them on health and safety plans to be implemented when we resume production.”
Now production is resuming, albeit in a different direction.
Meeting Critical Needs
Two of the largest challenges facing medical staff battling COVID-19 in hospitals around the world are a shortage of respirators for health professionals and ventilators for patients. Respirator masks are necessary for protecting doctors, nurses, and other care providers against contracting and spreading the virus while they tend to the sick. Ventilators are needed to help those whose lungs are affected by COVID-19. Increased production of both can save hundreds of lives.
Support from GM and Ford
On March 20, GM announced it is collaborating with ventilator producer Ventec Life Systems, and StopTheSpread.org, a coordinated private sector response to the virus.
“We are working closely with Ventec to rapidly scale up production of their critically important respiratory products to support our country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mary Barra, GM Chairman and CEO in a joint statement with Ventec and StopTheSpread.org. “We will continue to explore ways to help in this time of crisis.”
Ford, meanwhile, has unrolled plans to partner with 3M to create Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs), GE to manufacture ventilators, and United Auto Workers (UAW) to pump out thousands of plastic face shields. The latter makes use of Ford’s existing 3D printing technology used in its Advanced Manufacturing Center in Redford, Michigan.
The company also announced plans to assist international efforts in the UK and China. “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,” said Bill Ford, Ford’s executive chairman on Tuesday in a company press release. “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.”
Other Ways the Auto Industry is Helping
In addition to manufacturers, other sectors of the industry are stepping up to the current challenge. Earlier in March, Enterprise Rent-A-Car lowered the minimum age of renters to 18 from 21, and waived fees for young drivers to help college students get home after schools shut their doors.
Dealerships are getting creative as well, finding ways to support their local communities. Some notable efforts include free oil changes and rotations for seniors in isolation, and hand-sanitizer production. In all, the auto industry, despite the hits closures are causing, is responding to the challenge of COVID-19 with its signature leadership and ingenuity.