Covid-19 relief efforts showcase the best parts of the auto industry
Words by Jill Ciminillo, Photos courtesy of Ford Motor Co.
My brother-in-law is a fireman/paramedic. He’s been told to prepare his family that, because he’s essential, he could be required to stay at the firehouse for a month or more. If that’s not bad enough, his municipality doesn’t have the appropriate resources to keep him and his fellow paramedics safe from catching Covid-19 – or passing it to each other.
In fact, they have just one protective mask to share between three shifts of paramedics. So, if one member of the team catches the virus, there is the potential that every member of the team gets sick because of a shared resource that’s supposed to protect them.
So, I want to say a personal and heartfelt thank you to Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which are switching gears (literally), to not only provide resources to people like my brother-in-law but also help those who are struggling to breath, to live.
What exactly are the Detroit Three doing to help during this time of an international pandemic? Here’s a quick summary:
Ford Motor Co.
Ford is collaborating with 3M and GE Healthcare to manufacture Power Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) and ventilators, respectively, so these necessary items can get into the hands that need them ASAP.
Additionally, in cooperation with the UAW, Ford will be assembling 100,000 plastic face shields per week, to disburse to medical professionals, factory workers and store clerks.
“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, in a 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.”
The end result: Critical masks, PARPs and ventilators can be produced more quickly to get into the hands of first responders, essential workers and hospitals in need. Added bonus: UAW workers continue to work.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
FCA has entered the Covid-19 fight by producing and donating 1 million protective face masks per month. It is in the process of installing production capability this week, with distribution in the next few weeks beginning in North America.
The automaker says this is just the beginning of a multifaceted global program, which will utilize supply-chain and engineering expertise, to support a global effort to fight the virus.
“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,” FCA CEO Mike Manley said in a press release. “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.”
The end result: People like my brother-in-law will get critical gear to protect themselves, so they can continue to help others.
GM is collaborating with Ventec Life Systems, which produces ventilators, and this will allow Ventec to increase production of respiratory care products to help the increasing numbers of people seriously affected by Covid-19.
How does GM help? By giving Ventec access to its logistics, purchasing and manufacturing expertise to build more ventilators.
“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 press release. “We will continue to explore ways to help in this time of crisis.”
The end result: More hospitals get more ventilators faster.
Proud to be an American
This isn’t the first time the auto industry has stepped up to the plate when America was in crisis. During World War II, the U.S. automakers produced $29 billion worth of military materials, which was a fifth of the entire country’s output. In addition to military trucks, the auto industry produced machine guns, carbines, tanks, armored cars, military helmets and aerial bombs.
It’s stuff like this that makes me proud to be an American as well as proud to cover the automotive industry.
There will always be corrupt CEOs and skeevy corporate practices that misinform consumers, and someone like me will always be there to report it.
But for today, I’m happy to be able to report something positive from the Detroit Three.
Editor’s note: If you’re looking for ways you personally can help, check with your state government. Many, like Illinois, are setting up disaster volunteer websites to give people ways to support the crisis efforts – both at home and in the field.