Automotive Coronavirus COVID-19 News

In Coronavirus COVID-19 news are Ford, 3M, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Buckle and the law.

Ford & 3M Deliver PPE

Since late March, the companies have been working rapidly to design and deliver urgently needed PAPRs, drawing on 3M’s expertise in personal safety equipment, technology and regulatory requirements. Through the collaboration, 3M and Ford brought the new PAPR from idea to product in 40 days. Now, more than 10,000 of the newly designed PAPRs are ready to be shipped from Ford’s Vreeland facility near Flat Rock, Michigan.

“We are dedicated to helping support and protect the health care workers fighting COVID-19,” said Bernard Cicut, vice president, 3M Personal Safety Division. “We thank Ford for partnering with us to quickly develop and deliver more of these critical health care supplies to the heroes working on the frontlines of this unprecedented health crisis.”

3M is a leading provider of personal protective equipment, including powered air-purifying respirators. Demand for 3M PAPRs is exceeding supply due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through partnerships with companies like Ford and Cummins, 3M plans to increase capacity of its own PAPRs by ten-fold within the next several months.

“Ford could not stand by while health care workers in this country placed their lives on the line to help others without even having proper protection,” said Jim Baumbick, vice president, Ford Enterprise Product Line Management. “That’s why we kicked off an all-out sprint to protect those who are so selflessly helping patients afflicted with this terrible virus.”

The Ford Limited-Use Public Health Emergency PAPR includes a hood and face shield to cover health care professionals’ heads and shoulders, while a high-efficiency (HEPA) filter system provides a supply of filtered air for up to eight hours on a single battery charge. The air blower system—built around fan components found in Ford F-150’s ventilated seats—is powered by a rechargeable, portable battery, helping keep the respirator in constant use by first-line defenders.

Approximately 90 paid UAW volunteers have assembled more than 10,000 PAPRs at Ford’s Vreeland facility near Flat Rock, Mich., with the ability to make 100,000 or more.

One of the proud UAW workers is Michele Strong, a team leader volunteering in Ford’s Vreeland facility. Now at almost 43 years with the company, Strong has worked in both Flat Rock Assembly Plant and the Rouge complex. Strong maintains a perfect attendance record – she wasn’t about to stop now.

“I’m proud of all of the vehicles I’ve help build over the years, but this is something totally different,” Strong said. “I’m up for this experience to help the world – to help the situation we’ve got. A lot of friends ask me, ‘Are you really going to do this?’ and I say, ‘Yes. It’s the right thing to do.’”

The 3M and Ford development team worked closely with the U.S. CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory. NIOSH provided timely guidance to encourage the development of PAPRs to help respond to the COVID-19 emergency. Ford has achieved temporary NIOSH approval under its limited-use protocol to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

More than 10 companies from across Ford’s automotive supply chain are providing new and off-the-shelf parts for use in the PAPRs. Components include hood tops for the wearer’s head and shoulders, filters and fans for supplying filtered air, power electronics, switches, foam seals and more.

The 3M and Ford development team worked closely with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory. NIOSH provided timely guidance to encourage the development of PAPRs to help respond to the COVID-19 emergency. NIOSH has issued temporary approval under its limited-use protocol to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

3M will sell and distribute the newly designed Ford Limited-Use Public Health Emergency PAPR through select 3M-authorized U.S. distributors to quickly and efficiently deploy these technologies to health care workers. The company will also provide technical support for health care workers using the new PAPRs. These 3M-authorized distributors moved exceptionally fast to make the PAPRs available for order within days.

3M and Ford will donate any profits they earn from the sale of the PAPR to COVID-19 related nonprofit organizations.

Since the initial outbreak, 3M has doubled its global output of filtering facepiece respirators, such as N95s, to a rate of more than 1.1 billion per year.

Honda Odysseys Shield Drivers in Detroit

Honda today delivered 10 Odyssey minivans to the City of Detroit that have been specially outfitted to transport people potentially infected with COVID-19, as well as healthcare workers.  To protect the health of the driver from the potential for droplet infection during transportation, the Honda Odysseys have been retrofitted with a plastic barrier installed behind the front seating area, as well as modifications to the ventilation system to maintain an air pressure differential between the front and rear seating areas.

After seeing news reports about similar specially equipped vehicles modified by Honda in Japan, officials from the state of Michigan and the City of Detroit approached Honda in the U.S. in mid-April about the possibility of acquiring similar vehicles for use in transporting local residents and healthcare workers to COVID-19 testing.  A team of volunteers at Honda’s R&D center in Raymond, Ohio, including senior engineers and fabrication experts, quickly conceived and designed a method to modify the U.S. Odyssey at the Honda R&D Americas vehicle development center in Raymond, Ohio, where it was originally developed.

“As of today, the City of Detroit has tested over 20,000 residents and employees for COVID-19. Transportation is a critical component of ensuring every Detroiter has access to a test. We are very appreciative of Honda for choosing Detroit to deploy these newly modified vehicles,” said Mayor Mike Duggan, City of Detroit.

The team of Honda engineers and experts in Ohio took the project from initial concept to completion in less than two weeks.  All material fabrication and installation, and adjustments to the software for the Odyssey’s ventilation system, was done entirely in-house.

“We’re very proud of the efforts made by Honda engineers in Ohio to quickly devise a plan and modify a small fleet of Honda Odyssey minivans to support the people of Detroit in the face of this unprecedented global pandemic,” said Rick Schostek, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “This project is one of many initiatives being undertaken by Honda and our associates to support communities throughout the country during this very difficult time.”

The Odyssey minivan modified in Japan is a smaller vehicle than the eight-seat U.S. version of the Honda Odyssey that was designed, developed and engineered in the U.S. and is made exclusively at a Honda plant in Lincoln, Alabama.

“Several members of our team have family members or friends working in the medical field to battle COVID-19 or know people who have family members battling COVID-19 infection and this became a very personal challenge to help potential victims and their families,” said Mike Wiseman, senior director for Strategic and Materials Research of Honda R&D Americas, LLC, who led the project.  “At Honda, we believe the purpose of technology is to help people and make their lives better and we were humbled to make this commitment to potentially help save lives.”

Odyssey Modification Process:

Honda engineers in Ohio installed a sealed clear polycarbonate (plastic) panel between the front seat compartment and rear two-row seating area by removing the hand grips on the structural roof pillar (B-pillar), behind the first row, replacing it with new brackets to attach the clear panel.  A second attachment bracket was fabricated and attached to the lower front seat belt anchor point for a total of three secure attachments on each side.

In conjunction with the installation of the clear polycarbonate barrier, the Odyssey’s ventilation system software was tuned to maintain a more positive pressure zone within the front compartment to establish a designed air pressure differential between the front and rear seating areas, greatly reducing the potential for droplet infection migration during transportation.

Honda R&D engineers in Ohio designed the software that controls the ventilation system on the current-generation Odyssey. This core knowledge enabled engineers to tune the software to assure the air pressure differential is compliant with guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for negative pressure rooms in medical and research facilities.  Specifically, the software is tuned to run the blower motor powering the fans in the front seating area faster than the fans for the rear seating area. The resulting air pressure differential creates a more negative pressure chamber in the rear seating area, with rear compartment air exhausted out the vents in the rear of the vehicle.

Toyota Donates Grants

Amid growing demand for emergency relief as a result of COVID-19, the Toyota USA Foundation awarded $2.5 million in grants to a variety of nonprofits across the nation. Funds address crucial needs – particularly food assistance – in urban hot spots and in many communities where Toyota operates, as well as e-learning programs to help keep youth engaged.

“We pivoted our foundation’s focus from STEM education to support the surge in demand for food assistance across the country,” said Mike Goss, Toyota USA Foundation president. “As we head into summer, and looking beyond, we also recognized the need to support a variety of e-learning programs with resources to expand access, engage youth and parents, and assist teachers.”

To date, including the above grants, Toyota has provided more than $8 million in funding and in-kind donations, including manufacturing and donating over 500,000 protective face shields for healthcare professionals.

Nissan Offers Disinfection Tips

Nissan is offering tips on how to disinfect your vehicle as we aim to stop the spread of COVID-19. Frequent hand washing as directed by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a crucial part of staying healthy, but so is disinfecting surfaces, including those in your car.

“Most people are still using their vehicles, whether they are essential employees commuting to work or someone running to the grocery store while in quarantine,” said Ryan Fulkerson, director, New Model Engineering, Nissan North America. “We want to make sure they’re informed on how to best keep their vehicle disinfected.”

The CDC recommends wearing disposable gloves for cleaning and then disinfecting surfaces. If a surface appears dirty, it should be wiped down with soap and water prior to disinfection. For vehicle interiors, a soft or microfiber cloth dampened with soap and water can be used to wipe down hard surfaces.

While most common household disinfectants are effective, some are not ideal for use on a vehicle including bleach, hydrogen peroxide, benzene, thinners or other harsh and abrasive cleaners. These chemical products can damage your vehicle’s upholstery and/or interior surfaces. Instead, alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol are effective against the coronavirus according to the CDC, and can be safely used in your vehicle.

The infotainment screen is tricky because it’s a high-touch area that should not come in contact with aggressive cleaners. Use screen wipes or a soft cloth dampened with soap and water to clean the screen surface. Wipe dry with a clean, soft cloth. Ammonia-based cleaners should not be used on infotainment screens, as they can damage the anti-glare and anti-fingerprint coatings. If the vehicle is equipped, using voice commands can help avoid touching the center screen altogether.

Nissan is providing a checklist to help you remember vehicles surfaces to regularly disinfect:

  • Steering wheel
  • Key and remote fob
  • Exterior door handles, both sides
  • Trunk lid or lift gate grab areas
  • Interior door pulls, both sides and interior door panels
  • Start button, if equipped
  • Rear view mirror, back and edges
  • HVAC vents
  • Gear selector
  • Turn signal lever
  • Windshield wiper controls
  • Center stack knobs
  • Center console and arm rest
  • Seat belt and buckle. Avoid harsh cleaners on the belt itself, they can degrade the fibres and the belt’s strength
  • Parking brake handle, parking brake or release lever

Buckle Covers Deliveries

Buckle a technology-driven financial services company, has been granted temporary approval to add insurance coverage to its rideshare driver members’ policies for the delivery of food, household supplies, and other packaged goods. Due to the COVID-19 crisis that has forced people to stay home in quarantine, many U.S. gig economy rideshare drivers have refocused to fill the increasing demand for the transportation of a wide range of packages. Buckle has responded to protect its insured members under these new conditions with added coverage at no additional cost.

Rideshare drivers may think they are covered by their TNC under these new delivery conditions, but generally are not. This new provision allows Buckle members who have purchased a motor vehicle insurance policy to be covered while delivering for companies like Grubhub, Uber Eats, DoorDash, Amazon Flex, Postmates, and others.

Craftsman Disinfects

Craftsman Auto Care is setting the trend in germ-protective services by announcing their Anti-Microbial Protection (AMP) Service that uses a non-toxic spray solution that is an EPA-registered, hospital-grade, antimicrobial (disinfectant).

It provides a bacteria, virus & mold killing barrier that molecularly bonds to treated surfaces in vehicles and kills bacteria and harmful microbes for up to 30 days.

Craftsman has recently become the sole BioPledge distributor in Washington D.C, Maryland and Northern Virginia region.  BioPledge, located in Texas, is the manufacturer and supplier of the AMP solution.  The BioPledge product that Craftsman Auto Care is offering has many applications besides vehicles and can be used for commercial and residential interior and exterior areas and is available in bulk 50 gallon drums.  For information about BioPledge use for your business, call 703-909-1819.

COVID-19 Causes Sensor Decline

The latest forecast by Strategy Analytics suggests that COVID-19 will cause at least an 11% decline in demand for automotive sensors in 2020. However, there is expected to be a strong rebound in 2021 and demand growth in subsequent years will show greater resilience. These are some of the key findings of the Strategy Analytics Powertrain, Body, Safety & Chassis Service (PBCS) service report, “Automotive Sensor Demand Forecast 2018 to 2027: Despite COVID-19, Automotive Sensor Demand Remains Resilient.”

Some $2.6 billion of sensor business could be potentially lost in 2020, according to Strategy Analytics. However, the sensor-rich sectors in climate control, electrified powertrain and safety systems will show resilience to reduced demand in light vehicles. The faster growth rate in those sectors will regain some ground lost in 2020. Where 2020 would see a 15.5% shortfall in demand with the previous forecast in January 2020, 2027 would see a smaller 4.3% shortfall in demand.

However, Kevin Mak, principal analyst in the Global Automotive Practice (GAP), provided some caution to the catch-up in sensor demand: “The forecast assumes a quick rebound in 2021, but there is the risk that there could be a “second wave” of infections and further lockdowns, as well as social distancing hampering productivity and the ability of lower tier vendors to operate.”

“Furthermore, by the 2027 timeframe, there could be further sensor price erosion and a small decline in sensor demand related to combustion engine and emission control systems because of engine downsizing and electrification.”

Still Need Lawyers with Stay-at-Home

The Law Office of John W. Redmann, LLC announces that it is helping clients via virtual consultations during the COVID-19 crisis in Louisiana. The New Orleans-area law firm has office locations in Gretna and Metairie but is able to serve individuals and businesses statewide impacted by the pandemic or injured unrelated to the crisis. On March 22, Governor Jon Bel Edwards issued a stay-at-home order to attempt to stem the spread of COVID-19 in Louisiana. One would think this order would result in fewer auto accidents on Louisiana roadways. This is exactly what happened — however, while accidents declined, a frightening increase in the percentage of fatalities to accidents across Louisiana resulted. Attorney John W. Redmann urges drivers to follow safety precautions while on the road, avoid driving under the influence or speeding, and always wear a seat belt.

Auto Accident Statistics During Coronavirus

During 2018, there were more than 700 fatal car accidents and more than 1,000 accidents in which a victim suffered a serious injury. During March of 2019, according to WAFB9, there were 131 severe crashes, 43 of which were fatal. During the same time period in March of 2020, accident statistics show 128 severe crashes, 38 of which were fatal. This means that while accidents themselves are lower, fatalities are a higher percentage. Auto accidents are down between 30 and 40 percent, but fatalities as a percentage are as much as eight percent higher.

Insurance Companies Have Stepped Up

Drivers in Louisiana will soon receive refunds from their auto insurance companies in large part due to the fact that insurers are seeing fewer overall claims since the stay-at-home order went into effect. While not all insurers are offering refunds, drivers are encouraged to contact their insurance company to find out if they may be entitled to partial refunds on April and May premiums.

Cause of Accidents During COVID-19

One would think that with fewer people on the roads, the cause of accidents may have changed. However, accident data reveals that the same factors responsible during “normal” times are the factors causing accidents on the roadways during COVID19:

Driving under the influence — There appears to be no reduction in the number of impaired drivers on the roadway. This factor alone remains one of the leading causes of crashes on Louisiana roadways.

Speeding — It may be tempting to travel faster when drivers realize traffic is lighter than normal. With tourism, the leading industry in Louisiana, currently non-existent, there are fewer cars on the roadway. This often provides drivers with a false sense of security, so they fail to maintain speed limits.

Failure to use seat belts – Drivers traveling on a quiet road often do not realize their lives are still in jeopardy by those who fail to maintain proper speed or those who are impaired by drugs or alcohol.

Trooper Taylor Scrantz, Louisiana State Police Troop A Public Information Officer, states, “We’re not seeing any correlation between the COVID virus and less people being on the roadway. We’re seeing them for the same reason: speed, impaired driving, and the lack of seat belt use,” Scrantz said. Drivers need to remain safe during this time and use caution and common sense while traveling on the roadways.