Automakers Go to War Again, This Time Against Coronavirus

In times of crisis, manufacturing giants have always been asked for help producing life-saving supplies. 2020 is no different.

CHINA-HUNAN-ZHUZHOU-PRODUCTION RESUMPTION (CN)
Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images—Xinhua News Agency

Carmakers across the globe are reportedly being approached to recommit their production lines from the manufacture of vehicles to equipment that could be used to combat soaring numbers of COVID-19 cases—namely respirators and masks.

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office has reached out to more than 60 manufacturing and engineering firms, some of them Britain's automakers, to boost supply of "vital medical equipment," reports Reuters. Targeted automakers include Ford, Honda, Groupe PSA-owned British marque Vauxhall, and Rolls-Royce.

"We want to help where we can in the current situation and we have been approached on this specific matter and are currently in discussion," a Ford spokesperson told Autocar.

"We have been contacted by government about the feasibility of Honda supporting the manufacture of additional ventilators," a Honda spokesperson added.

Toyota has reportedly not been contacted by the British PM's office, though it told the publication it would be "more than willing" to support medical equipment manufacturing efforts in Britain. The western world's auto industry, however, continues to shut down factories to contain the spread of COVID-19, so some automakers' ability to respond may be limited by production line freezes.

BYD

Across the globe, Chinese electric carmaker BYD declared last Friday that it has reworked its production lines and "created the world's largest mass-produced face masks plant." The company claims it completed its research and development, retooling, and commenced production within a week, and now has the capacity to produce five million masks daily, all of which it says are "significantly better than similar masks in the industry." Likewise, it claims to have kicked off the production of medical-grade sanitizer within six days and to have the capacity to produce 500,000 bottles per day. Chinese officials haven't been the most forthcoming with the truth during the coronavirus outbreak, so even though the country's industry is indeed beginning to come back online, take BYD's claims with a grain of salt.

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