By Samuel Smith
Published: Thursday, May 7, 2020
In 2019, Toyota sold 10.74 million cars worldwide, while General Motors churned out a cool $13.972 billion profit. In 2020, major brands like these are gearing up to help battle COVID-19.
If, last year, we told you General Motors were developing ventilators, you might have assumed they were part of some newfangled engine air intake system.
The mention of a Toyota face shield would probably have had you scratching your head in confusion.
But now, just a few months into 2020, we’re facing one of the biggest unknowns in recent history. Across the globe, the definition of ‘normal’ has been rewritten.
From stitching face masks to donating millions, car manufacturers have tipped ‘normal’ on its head in their fight against COVID-19.
Here are just some of the ways the automotive industry is making an impact.
Toyota: making medical shields
Toyota has always been synonymous with technological development. Now, the company that revolutionised how we think about hybrids, is making medical supplies.
Toyota Australia is currently developing and producing face shields for hospital staff in Melbourne. Fully approved and tested, around 2000 of the shields were distributed to various medical facilities in late April.
“We at Toyota have the advanced technology, design and manufacturing expertise to rapidly develop and produce essential protective supplies,” said Toyota Australia Vice President of Sales and Marketing Sean Hanley in a statement.
The face shields are being produced in Port Melbourne using Computer Aided Design (CAD), and high-precision computer-controlled cutting machines (CNC routers).
In addition to producing face masks, Toyota is supplying meals to healthcare workers throughout Melbourne, and is planning to develop hyperbaric oxygen treatment hoods.
Ford and General Motors: making ventilators
General Motors, known for its fire-breathing V8s, is now also producing lifesaving ventilators.
Throughout the US, both Ford and GM have transformed some of their factories into ventilator production facilities. The reason? Automakers work with similar materials, use precise, high-tech equipment and have streamlined supply chains.
GM has welcomed ventilator production company, Ventec Life Systems into its Indiana factory, while Ford has teamed up with Airon – another US ventilator company.
Ford is helping increase ventilator production at Airon’s Florida-based plant, and also has plans to produce ventilators at its disused factories.
Lamborghini: hand-stitching face masks
Over in Italy, Lamborghini’s Sant’Agata Bolognese upholstery department is adept at hand-stitching supercar interiors and now, also, face masks. The company’s research and development department is hard at work making medical shields for the Sant’Orsola-Malpighi Hospital.
Lamborghini is producing 1000 masks and 200 polycarbonate medical shields a day. Like all things Lamborghini, the masks are hand-made, while the medical shields are produced with 3D printers.
“We will win this battle together by working in union, supporting those who are at the forefront of fighting this pandemic every day,” commented Stefano Domenicali, Chairman and CEO of Lamborghini.
In an act of support, each night, Lamborghini lights up its headquarters in Sant’Agata Bolognese with the colours of the Italian flag.
Audi: donating millions
Like many manufacturers, the Volkswagen group – which Audi is part of – has leveraged its facilities world-wide to create medical equipment.
While Audi is heavily involved in the production of vital supplies, the prestige German brand has gone the extra mile, donating €5 million ($8.98 million AUD) in emergency aid.
The money has been used to purchase vital medical supplies for hospitals, with a large portion was donated directly healthcare centres.
A considerable chunk went towards the #AudiTogether Solidarity Concert – a charity performance featuring renowned musicians, streamed live across Audi’s social media channels and their website last month.