By joining forces with General Electric’s healthcare unit and 3M Co, Ford is taking heed of US president Donald Trump’s call for US automakers to work across sectors in producing equipment needed for the pandemic.
The rapid outbreak, which has killed more than 16,500 people globally, has strained healthcare systems around the world and led to a shortage of ventilators needed to treat patients suffering from the flu-like illness, which can lead to breathing difficulties and pneumonia in severe cases.
“We’ve been in regular dialogue with federal, state and local officials to understand the areas of greatest needs,” Ford chief executive Jim Hackett said, adding that the company’s aim was to increase the supply on necessary medical equipment.
Ford and GE Healthcare will expand the production of GE’s ventilator design to support patients with respiratory failure or difficulty breathing caused by the pathogen, Ford said.
A full-feature ventilator can cost as much as US$45,000 (RM198,000). Most of the major manufacturers have disclosed plans to boost production, including by adding shifts or running assembly plants around the clock, according to a Bloomberg report.
Separately, Ford will work with 3M to increase manufacturing capacity of its air-purifying respirators to meet a surge in demand for first responders and healthcare workers.
The company said it was exploring how it could produce these new respirators in one of its Michigan plants and help 3M boost production ten-fold. It would use fans from its Ford F-150 cooled seats to make parts of the respirators, the company said.
Additionally, Ford said its US design team was starting to test transparent full-face shields for first responders, which when paired with N95 respirator masks, could be an effective way of limiting exposure to the coronavirus.
General Motors Co has also partnered with medical equipment maker Ventec and is building ventilators at its plant in Indiana.
Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler Automobile NV told employees in an email that the Italian-American automaker would start converting one of its China plants to ultimately make over 1 million masks a month to help combat the coronavirus outbreak.