Coronavirus and COVID-19 Automotive News

In coronavirus and COVID-19 automotive news are Ford, CTEK, GM, Ventech and AutoNation.

Ford Pivots to 100 Million Masks

Following completion of its 50,000th ventilator to help clinicians treat COVID-19 patients, Ford is pivoting to target production of 100 million masks through 2021 for communities across the U.S. with limited access to personal protective equipment. The company, currently manufacturing 2.5 million medical-grade masks a week for its employees and at-risk communities, is growing the number of mask-making machines by mid- to late-October to increase production and deliver on its goal.

Ford is working with Ford Motor Company Fund, the company’s philanthropic arm, to identify donation recipients across the U.S. through a network of nonprofit and state and local partners. The company is focusing on military veterans, schools, food banks and African American communities, among others.

“As the pandemic continues, so does the spirit, grit and dedication of our Ford team and UAW partners to step up and contribute to help our country,” said Jim Hackett, Ford president and CEO. “Working together, we’re setting a goal of producing 100 million masks for families, children, individuals and communities who need them most.”

This announcement comes ahead of a new short documentary by award-winning director Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights,” “Patriots Day,” “Lone Survivor”) titled “On the Line.” Premiering on YouTube at 2 p.m. EDT today, the documentary focuses on Ford’s Project Apollo, the internal codename for the company’s all-out effort to design and manufacture personal protective equipment, including powered air-purifying respirators, face shields, medical gowns for healthcare workers and first responders, plus ventilators for COVID-19 patients.

Berg’s deep dive into the story features members of Ford’s Project Apollo team – from the engineers who led the project to the UAW team members who volunteered to work at the height of the pandemic.

To commemorate release of the documentary ahead of Labor Day, the Aspen Institute, as part of the “Aspen Ideas Now” virtual speaker series, will feature a conversation with Hackett, UAW President Rory Gamble and Berg, exploring the state of the American labor force, the importance of a strong automotive manufacturing base and the role American corporations can play in times of need. A trailer for the documentary is available now and can be found here and a link to today’s 2 p.m. Aspen conversation is here.

“Just weeks into the virus, with most people sheltering at home and so many lives on the line, the duty and sacrifice shown by the Ford team and UAW to put aside their personal concerns and go to work to provide what the country needed represented the absolute best of our country,” said Berg. “‘On the Line’ commemorates those heroic efforts and shows that no matter what challenges we may face, when we come together, we can do great things.”

“At a time when the virus was new and equipment was sparse, UAW members volunteered to go into the plants and make personal protective equipment that helped save lives,” said Gamble. “I could not be prouder of their commitment and dedication. Our UAW Ford members on Project Apollo and throughout the union have added a new chapter in our long history of serving our nation in dire times of need.”

Last week, Ford Motor Company Fund shipped 10 million face masks to the National Urban League, American Red Cross, Disabled American Veterans and other local organizations to protect against COVID-19.

Ford, in partnership with the UAW, has produced more than 72 million pieces of personal protective equipment to meet the enormous demand. Altogether, this amounts to:

  • More than 45 million face masks and 20 million face shields.
  • 50,000 patient ventilators.
  • More than 32,000 powered air-purifying respirators in collaboration with 3M.
  • 1.4 million washable isolation gowns.

CTEK Makes Emergency Charging Safe

Whether it’s an ambulance responding to an emergency, a truck conveying critical supplies, an essential worker commuting to work, or a parent taking their child to school, we depend on our vehicles now more than ever. That crucial reliance on vehicles during the COVID-19 pandemic . For most, a flat vehicle battery is an inconvenience, but in the fight against COVID-19, it could mean life or death.

“We know frontline responders have enough on their minds already. They shouldn’t have to worry about a flat vehicle battery,” said Bobbie DuMelle, Executive Vice President for CTEK North America.

CTEK’s aim is to make battery charging as reliable, safe, and easy-to-use as possible. To combat COVID-19, CTEK provided emergency services globally with critical equipment.

CTEK chargers are providing reliable power management for ambulances, rapid response vehicles, and health care supply equipment.

“In an emergency, time is crucial, and people expect us to arrive as quickly as possible. It’s important that our emergency and rapid response vehicles be able to start when we need them to. A flat battery at a critical time could be catastrophic,” said Matthew Carlson, deputy fire chief of the Colona Fire Department, in Illinois. “CTEK chargers help our batteries stay charged so we’re always ready to answer emergency calls.”

During this worldwide fight against COVID-19, CTEK chargers are powering sanitizing and disinfecting equipment.

“Disinfecting misting machines are used at hospitals and schools across the nation to sanitize and kill viruses and bacteria. CTEK’s MXS 5.0 12-volt battery charger is assembled in every Kärcher PS 4/7 Bp hospital-grade misting system to ensure the critical sanitizing machine can be reliably recharged and ready for use,” explained Jason Mitchell, president of R/A Hoerr Inc., the supplier for CTEK assemblies to disinfecting machine manufacturer Kärcher.

All across America, COVID-19 has changed driving habits, resulting in an increase in flat vehicle batteries. With work-from-home policies eliminating the daily commute, vehicles are only used for short distances – not giving the alternator enough time to charge the battery – or left parked for long periods of time, leading to sulfation, which can kill a battery.

At CTEK, “Maximizing Battery Performance” isn’t just a slogan, it’s at the heart of everything the company does.

“Relying on your battery is important, no matter if you’re an EMT responding to an emergency call, a parent going to the store to buy groceries, or a hospital custodian working to disinfect a patient’s room,” said DuMelle.

CTEK chargers are safe and easy to use. Connect and Forget simplicity means a charger can remain connected to the battery and the float/pulse maintenance stage will provide optimal care during periods of inactivity without damaging the battery.

General Motors Turns Over Ventech Operations

The team General Motors and Ventec Life Systems assembled to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic delivered its 30,000th V+Pro critical care ventilator to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services yesterday, the companies announced today.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, GM and Ventec collaborated to rapidly scale up production of critical care ventilators. In one month, the teams went from an introductory phone call to delivering life-saving technology to frontline medical heroes. The full federal order was completed in just 154 days, with one ventilator completed about every seven minutes.

With yesterday’s shipment, GM has formally turned over operational control of the company’s Kokomo ventilator manufacturing operation to Ventec. Ventec will produce VOCSN multi-function critical care ventilators in Kokomo, as well as in Bothell, Washington in response to ongoing demand during the pandemic. Ventec’s monthly ventilator production increased 80 times during the pandemic.

“Our drive to put critical care ventilators into production was fueled by thousands of people at GM, Ventec and our suppliers who all wanted to do their part to help save lives during the pandemic,” said Mary Barra, GM Chairman and CEO. “It was inspiring to see so many people achieve so much so quickly.”

“Our hope continues to be that mitigation efforts stop the spread of this virus. Ventec Life Systems is committed to maintaining increased production capacity for as long as it is needed to ensure frontline healthcare workers have the tools necessary to save lives,” said Ventec Life Systems CEO Chris Kiple. “We are incredibly proud of how our teams came together united by a common mission.”

One of the first medical facilities to receive a GM-Ventec ventilator was Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

“We are very grateful to Ventec Life Systems and General Motors for the critical care ventilators we received in April,” said Dr. Suzanne Pham, M.D., hospitalist at Weiss Memorial Hospital. “The devices built in just one month are currently helping patients battling COVID-19, and are valuable tools enabling our medical team to save lives. I’m proud to say we have had many patients beat COVID-19, wean off the ventilator, and safely return home.”

The unique collaboration between Ventec and GM to build V+Pro critical care ventilators began with conference calls initiated by on March 17 and 18. The first units were delivered to Franciscan Health Olympia Fields in Olympia Fields, Illinois and Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago. A third shipment was delivered by UPS to the Gary/Chicago International Airport on April 18 for distribution to other locations where the need was greatest.

AutoNation Offers Free Vehicle Sanitation to Teachers

AutoNation, Inc.  AutoNation, America’s largest and most recognized automotive retailer, announced that it will offer teachers coast to coast, free vehicle sanitization, every Tuesday beginning August 25, 2020 through September 29, 2020.

Teachers are encouraged to stop by any AutoNation store on Tuesdays for a free Clorox T360 sanitization treatment for their vehicle. The process is easy. Teachers show their current teaching badge, or ID, sit back and relax. In less than 30 minutes they will drive off in their vehicles that have been sanitized with an EPA-approved disinfectant registered for use against Covid-19.

“AutoNation is committed to keeping America driving safe. So, while teachers are educating our children, AutoNation will do its parts to keep them driving safe. We thank all of our teachers for their commitment to learning and education,” said Marc Cannon, AutoNation’s Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Experience Officer.

Nissan Helps Feeding America

Nissan North America is extending its fight to curb hunger by doubling its annual contributions to local food banks in response to rising rates of food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nissan’s donations will help purchase more than 1 million meals for residents in need across Middle Tennessee and Mississippi.

According to a report from Feeding America, nearly 54 million people (1 in 6 people) may face food insecurity in 2020, including 18 million children. This means 1 in 4 children in the U.S. may be unsure of where their next meal will come from.

“Our food bank partners have been significantly impacted by COVID-19 in a number of ways, from an increase in the number of people they serve to a decrease in food donations to the reduced number of volunteers allowed in warehouses to assist with food packing for distribution,” says Parul Bajaj, senior manager, Philanthropy. “Increasing Nissan’s annual donations will help our community partners better meet this expanded level of need as we all continue to navigate these unprecedented times.”

Second Harvest of Middle Tennessee

“Nissan has been a longstanding supporter of Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee for nearly 30 years,” said Nancy Keil, president and CEO of Second Harvest. “A lot of industries are struggling right now, so we were truly blown away by Nissan’s generosity in doubling their annual gift to $200,000. As we continue to face so much uncertainty, this donation will ensure 800,000 meals are provided to our neighbors in need.”

Nissan’s contributions to Second Harvest of Middle Tennessee total nearly $1.7 million and is the food bank’s first Mission Partner, which denotes an organization that donates more than $100,000 annually. Nissan employees also regularly volunteer at Second Harvest’s warehouses in Nashville and Smyrna to sort and prepare food for distribution. In addition to funds and volunteering, Nissan has donated five vehicles valued at more than $100,000 to provide much-needed logistics support.

Mississippi Food Network and Our Daily Bread

“There is a saying that every cloud has a silver lining, and if there is a silver lining to the COVID pandemic cloud that is overshadowing us, it is how graciously those who are able, like Nissan, have responded with their financial gifts to help support the increased demand for food this unprecedented health crisis is causing,” said Dr. Charles Beady, CEO of Mississippi Food Network. “Nissan has been an integral community partner with Mississippi Food Network for many years and we look forward to the continued partnership.”

Nissan’s Vehicle Assembly Plant in Canton, Mississippi, has a years-long partnership with both Mississippi Food Network and Our Daily Bread food banks. Contributions in Mississippi total more than $311,000. Mississippi Canton employees regularly volunteer at both organizations to help pack backpacks with healthy lunches and snacks for kids with food insecurities. At Our Daily Bread, which also operates as a soup kitchen in Madison County, employee volunteers serve lunch to residents in need, and Nissan was able to donate a van to the organization’s “Meals on Wheels” program. Nissan’s recent donations will provide more than 200,000 meals to the local community.

Nissan’s donations to Second Harvest of Middle Tennessee, Mississippi Food Network and Our Daily Bread are through its Nissan Neighbors charitable giving program, a community-focused initiative dedicated to improving communities through charitable contributions and in-kind donations to nonprofit organizations working in three focus areas: education, the environment and humanitarian aid.

Mitsubishi NA Helps Tenn. Community

As plans develop to bring teachers and students back to the classroom this fall amidst a global pandemic, many of the essential supplies needed to keep everyone safe are spread thin. Today, Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. (MMNA) announced that it will activate its employee team, and a fleet of more than 20 Mitsubishi vehicles, to safely assist the Nashville, Tenn.-based Community Resource Center (CRC) in delivering teacher PPE kits to the 135 schools in the Metro Nashville Public School system.

Mitsubishi Motors began working with the CRC to aid relief efforts in the aftermath of the area’s March 2020 tornadoes, with the donation of a 2020 Outlander Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle (PHEV) long-term lease and staff volunteer time, and the partnership has continued during the COVID-19 outbreak. As summer faded into fall, and the CRC began building hundreds of teacher PPE kits, a challenge presented itself: how to deliver them all.

“Mitsubishi Motors immediately stepped in to offer staff support and vehicles to bring the teacher PPE kit delivery over the finish line,” said CRC Executive Director Tina Doniger. “That is exactly the type of partner you want in a crisis, but also when a window of opportunity presents itself to make something good happen for the community.”

PPE kits will include face shields, masks, sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer. Funding for the kits was donated to the Community Resource Center by Piedmont Natural Gas.

The delivery will take place over the course of three days, starting Tuesday, Sept. 1 and ending Thursday, Sept. 3. With strict considerations for social distancing, sanitization, masks and gloves, Mitsubishi will dispatch 20-plus volunteers and 20-plus vehicles to schools across the Metro Nashville area for low-to-no contact kit delivery.