Automakers Unite Against COVID-19By Alejandro Salas | Fri, 03/20/2020 - 20:11
Companies in Mexico are adopting the home-office trend as the COVID-19 contingency advances. This, however, is no good news for automakers and auto parts suppliers, as manufacturing cannot be taken home. Plants across the country are shutting down or restricting operations to prevent contagion, even though there has not been a proper contingency plan implemented by the government.
At the moment, five light-vehicle manufacturers in the country have taken measures against COVID-19. FCA and Ford ceased operations for nearly two weeks and Audi will do the same starting on March 23. Honda, on the other hand, will stop operations only for six days, while Toyota will close its plants in Guanajuato and Baja California for just two days. General Motors and Volkswagen are still operational but both companies have already ceased operations in other parts of the world. While these measures respond to a global need to prevent contagion, there were also fueled by lower vehicle demand globally, as well as problems across the entire supply chain.
Mexico is not alone in this, however. Automakers have stopped producing vehicles around the world, some for a short period and others until further notice. This, however, does not mean that plants are idle. After Chinese BYD ceased vehicle-manufacturing operations to provide face masks and bottles of hand sanitizer to help the government face the health crisis, governments around the world are pushing more OEMs from both the automotive and aerospace industries to convert their plants toward medical equipment production, mostly ventilators.
In the UK, three teams of automotive and aerospace companies are now working on the production of basic ventilators to help the government face the crisis. One of the teams is led by aerospace oxygen-system manufacturer Meggitt, while the other two are led by McLaren and Nissan. In Italy, where the situation has taken a dire turn, Ferrari and FCA are now in talks with the government and medical equipment companies to boost ventilator production for intensive care beds. “We are talking to Fiat Chrysler, with Ferrari and Marelli to try to understand if they can lend us a hand in this process for the electronics part,” said Chief Executive of Siare Engineering Gianluca Preziosa in an interview with Reuters.
Closer to home, US President Donald Trump has opened dialog with General Motors and Ford to analyze how they could help the country face ventilator shortages. Even Tesla’s Elon Musk has responded to the global plea saying that his company is ready to make ventilators, should there be a shortage.
While Mexico’s health sector’s capacity has not been compromised yet, global actions shine a light on what could be the future for automakers in the country. The public healthcare system has been dealing with shortages, mostly in medicine, over the past months, which suggest that if the COVID-19 outbreak is not properly contained, the private sector would have to collaborate with the government to alleviate pressure on the public healthcare system.