As the coronavirus continues spread, more and more automakers are stepping up to tackle the pandemic.
The latest are Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles which have announced plans to begin producing lifesaving medical equipment.
Starting with Ford, the automaker has partnered with 3M and GE Healthcare. As part of the tie up with 3M, the companies are working to rapidly increase production of powered air-purifying respirators. As part of the effort, they’re working to jointly develop a new respirator that uses parts from both firms.
By using off-the-shelf components, such as fans typically used for ventilated seats in the F-150, the companies hope to fast track production. Ford says the new respirator could be built at plants in Michigan, by UAW workers, and this could help 3M to boost production tenfold.
The partnership with GE Healthcare focuses on a simplified version of the company’s existing ventilator. The companies didn’t say much about it, but noted the ventilators could be built at a Ford manufacturing site as well as a GE facility.
Last but not least, Ford is pumping out transparent full-face shields for medical workers and first responders. The first 1,000 units will be tested at Detroit Mercy, Henry Ford Health Systems and Detroit Medical Center Sinai-Grace hospitals in Michigan.
Approximately 75,000 face shields will be built this week and Ford expects to be able to build more than 100,000 weekly at their Troy Design and Manufacturing subsidiary in Plymouth, Michigan.
Ford is also helping hospitals to locate and acquire surgical and N95 masks which are in short supply. As part of this effort, they’ve committed to sending 40,000 surgical masks to Henry Ford Health Systems and are working to find more.
In a statement, Ford CEO Jim Hackett said “Working with 3M and GE, we have empowered our teams of engineers and designers to be scrappy and creative to quickly help scale up production of this vital equipment.” He added, “We are focusing our efforts to help increase the supply of respirators, face shields and ventilators that can help assist health care workers, first responders, critical workers as well as those who have been infected by the virus.”
FCA, on the other hand, is kicking off a “multifaceted global program” to help fight the coronavirus. The company’s first step is gearing up to produce more than a million face masks monthly.
Equipment will be installed in a facility this week and the company plans to begin production in the coming weeks. The masks will initially be sent to North America where they will be donated to hospitals, health care clinics and first responders.
The company will announce additional initiatives in the coming days.