Fiat Chrysler swaps cars for masks in huge production effort

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is swapping cars for face masks at one of its factories as part of efforts to help frontline medical professionals in North America during the coronavirus outbreak.

Officially known as COVID-19, the virus is continuing to spread in the United States, putting growing pressure on hospitals and other healthcare facilities throughout the country.

Keen to do its bit in the fight against the virus, FCA is now adding production capacity for protective face masks at one of its factories in Asia. It plans to produce around a million of the masks per month, beginning in the coming weeks. Initial supplies will go to healthcare staff and other key workers in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

As the virus can spread through tiny droplets of infected saliva, the masks are a vital piece of equipment for those dealing with COVID-19 cases. And with so many patients to handle, it’s important that the masks and other protective equipment be changed regularly.

FCA said it’s able to exploit its manufacturing, supply chain, and engineering expertise as part of broader efforts to quell the virus.

“Protecting our first responders and health care workers has never been more important,” FCA CEO Mike Manley said in a release this week. “We canvassed our contacts across the healthcare industry and it was very clear that there is an urgent and critical need for face masks. We’ve marshaled the resources of the FCA Group to focus immediately on installing production capacity for making masks and supporting those most in need on the front line of this pandemic.”

Last week it emerged that Fiat Chrysler is also in talks with Italy’s biggest ventilator manufacturer with a view to boosting production of the life-saving machine. Ferrari is also working on the same initiative.

Along with numerous other businesses, many of FCA’s factories around the world have been temporarily shuttered by government and state lockdown orders as part of efforts to keep people apart and slow the spread of the virus. But adapting some of its facilities to produce vital medical equipment makes perfect sense in the current circumstances.

The pandemic has placed an unprecedented demand on face masks, as well as other protective equipment, prompting tech firms such as Apple and Facebook to manufacture and donate millions of masks for healthcare workers in the U.S. and Europe. Earlier this week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly sent a supply of masks, gowns, and other medical equipment to a number of UCLA Health hospitals in Los Angeles. Musk’s electric-car company is also planning to build ventilators for American medical facilities, with similar initiatives recently launched by General Motors, Ford, and gaming hardware company Razer, among others.

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