Buffett-backed Chinese EV maker BYD says making 5 million masks daily to fight virus

By REUTERS | 13 March 2020

Protective masks moving through a machine on the protective mask production line at a Hong Kong factory. —Bloomberg

BEIJING/SHANGHAI: Chinese electric vehicle maker BYD said today it is making 5 million masks a day to fight the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 3,200 people in China.

The Shenzhen-based automaker, which is backed by US investor Warren Buffett, said in a statement it started work on building a new mask production line in late January. BYD also produces around 300,000 bottles of hand sanitisers a day, it said.

Bloomberg reported BYD as claiming that it is now the world’s biggest face-mask maker after starting production less than a month ago. It is expanding capacity on top of the daily 5 million masks it makes.

Founder Wang Chuanfu led a team of 3,000 engineers to build production lines from scratch using 90% in-house components. BYD didn’t specify what type of masks it makes.

BYD, which also produces EV batteries, said it will give masks to its workers to ensure normal production and will supply the rest to people in Hubei, the epicentre of the coronavirus, and to hospitals and public transport.

More than 134,500 people have been infected globally by the coronavirus and over 4,900 have died, according to a Reuters tally of government announcements. The total number of cases in mainland China is 80,813.

As factories in China, the world’s No.2 economy, start to resume work, a number of Chinese manufacturers, including a subsidiary of Apple Inc partner Foxconn, have refitted production lines to make masks and medical clothing to meet surging demand.

SGMW, a Guangxi-based joint venture of General Motors, SAIC Motor and a local partner, is also making around 2 million masks a day.