The Automotive Industry is Racing to Make Ventilators During Covid-19 Pandemic

In a bid to combat the contagious coronavirus outbreak, the automotive industry has come forward with assisting the hospital sector by offering its expertise and manpower. Auto manufacturers are now begun producing urgently needed medical ventilators for this deadly virus. As hospitals around the world currently are facing a surge of Covid-19 patients, the shortages of ventilators have forced doctors to make life-or-death decisions. In response to this, American auto manufacturers including General Motors and Ford, French car companies PSA and Renault, and Formula One engineers have joined to curb the global shortage of the requisite piece of medical equipment.

As the outbreak of novel coronavirus spreads to almost every corner of the world, it has led to the scarcity of masks and gloves as well as demands for specialised machines that help keep severely afflicted patients alive. In France, a consortium of industrial companies has been created to manufacture 10,000 ventilators by mid-may, as the President Emmanuel Macron announced late last month.

On the other hand, In Spain, SEAT, a member of the Volkswagen Group, has moved to produce ventilators at its Martorell plant near Barcelona. According to SEAT, the proposed model, which leverages the adapted motor of a windscreen wiper, is already under the testing phase with the hopes of gaining approval from health authorities. Luxury carmaker Mercedes has also asked its Formula 1 team to get to work.

The Mercedes’ Formula 1 team, which is the six-time world champion, has created a less-invasive respiratory device in order to reserve ventilators, which require breathing tubes and sedation, for the most critically affected patients. The team says it could produce some 1,000 units a day with the help of six other UK-based F1 teams that have committed to assist in manufacturing the devices.

Collaboration of Automakers and Medical Device Makers

To respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, medical equipment manufacturers have joined hands with auto companies like Maruti, Mahindra and Tata Motors for the production of ventilators. As per the research group Brookings, India has a maximum 57,000 ventilators both in the government and private sector hospitals. The country would require an estimated 1.1 lakh to 2.2 lakh such devices by May as the pandemic outbreak is expected to rise. However, to meet the growing demands of ventilators, Indian medical device manufacturers have drawn up plans to deliver 50,000 ventilators by May.

While most of the medical device manufacturers do not have the financial capability to work on the production of ventilators significantly, automobile giants are expected to contribute to the need of time. In the auto sector, the machinery used to make electrical components for automobiles can be tweaked to produce breathing devices.

Moreover, a German medical tech giant Draeger has reportedly doubled the number of ventilators in its fight against Covid-19 outbreak.

In its recent article, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a non-profit organization said that car manufacturers are not best placed for assembling medical equipment. According to the group, ventilators might resemble the pumps and air-conditioners used in automobiles, but few automakers build their own – they buy them from specialised producers. While carmakers have under-utilised production capacity now, they are still reliant on suppliers who are often overseas, and at the moment supply chains have nearly ground to a halt.