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Auto Manufacturers Step Up During COVID-19 Crisis

Some of the largest firms are working to produce medical equipment on the very lines that once made cars and trucks.

Matthew Guy By: Matthew Guy March 25, 2020
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History is awash with images of tanks and airplanes being churned out by Detroit factories in the 1940’s as part of the war effort. Production of consumer vehicles was halted not only to use assembly plants for this purpose but also to free up raw materials.

In 2020, automakers are again stepping up and using their manufacturing and financial might to help in the time of crisis. Virtually all auto companies have shut down production facilities in an effort to stem the spread of this virus and most have, or will, put in place programs to help customers with their car payments. Some of the largest firms are working to produce medical equipment on the very lines that once made cars and trucks.

Auto Manufacturers Step Up During COVID-19 Crisis

Material Production

Ford is reaching into its vast parts bin and, in a scene reminiscent of Apollo 13 where engineers used items on hand to make a square CO2 cartridge fit in the space designed for a round one, are deploying seat fans originally designed for F-150 pickup trucks as part of an effort to build respirators and ventilators.

By leveraging their combined source of parts and expertise, the Blue Oval is working with GE Healthcare and 3M to quickly expand production of urgently needed medical equipment and supplies for healthcare workers, first responders, and patients fighting COVID-19. For example, Ford and 3M teams are combining off-the-shelf parts – like the airflow fans built for cooled seats in the F-150 and 3M HEPA air filters to filter airborne contaminants – to develop an air-purifying respirator that could be built in Ford plants with UAW labour. They’ve also discovered that portable tool battery packs can power these respirators for up to eight hours.

At FCA, bright minds at that company have made it possible for them to step in and help those at the pandemic’s front line by manufacturing and donating more than 1 million protective face masks per month. Production capacity is being installed as you read this. The company will start manufacturing face masks in the coming weeks with initial distribution across the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

General Motors is teaming with Vented Life Systems, enabling the latter to increase production of its respiratory care products. Ventec will leverage GM’s logistics, purchasing, and manufacturing might to build additional ventilators. By tapping their expertise, the company will be able to get extra ventilators to hospitals more quickly.

Mass donations of masks and air-purifying respirators to medical facilities and healthcare professionals have also flowed from companies like Tesla in California. Even places like automotive repair facilities are donating items like masks that would otherwise be used for the preparation and painting of vehicles. 

Auto Manufacturers Step Up During COVID-19 Crisis

Financial Support & Incentives

With the crisis necessitating the closure of many businesses, more than a few customers could find themselves having a hard time keeping up with their car payments in the absence of a steady income. Some companies, like FCA, have financial incentives in place for folks buying a new vehicle, deploying programs such as deferring payments for 90 days on certain models. Hyundai has slashed interest rates to 0% for 84 months on some models and introduced a 6-month payment deferral on all models as of last Friday.

Ford of Canada has gotten out in front of the situation and introduced six months of payment relief for the purchase of new vehicles financed by Ford Credit through their “Built to Lend a Hand” program. As well, most Canadian customers who financed their vehicle through Ford Credit are eligible for payment extensions of up to 90 days. Know that each case is different, and a call to Ford Credit would be prudent.

Larry Hutchinson, President and CEO of Toyota Canada, announced on Friday that Canadian customers with vehicles purchased or leased through Toyota Financial Services can expect help as well. The company will be evaluating customer needs on a case-by-case basis and could offer payment relief to customers. The best way to get this ball rolling is to call TFS directly.

Hyundai says a one-month payment deferral is available for existing lease customers, along with a maturity date extension so customers in self-isolation can delay their vehicle return at the end of term by an additional 30 days to three months. Up to a three-month payment deferral available for existing financing customers.

Stay Alert, Stay Safe

Following the social distancing and other guidelines suggested by health officials and different levels of government in order to curb the spread of this virus is important. These examples of manufacturing initiative and financial assistance certainly help as well. If you’re out there, stay safe.

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