Report: UK Automakers to Switch to a More Useful Product
In times of crisis, companies have been known to turn on a dime to produce whatever’s most needed at a given moment. Detroit automakers churned out all manner of jeeps, armoured cars, and tank killers during World War 2, with American office supplier Remington Rand cranking out .45-calibre Colt 1911 pistols. The Singer sewing machine company made its own batch of 1911s during WWI.
The threat facing the globe right now is not militaristic in nature, but it does pose a clear danger to everyone. It also knows no borders. As the world (in many cases, belatedly) moves to counter the threat of COVID-19, UK automakers might be pressed into service making a different kind of product.
What saves COVID-19 victims? Ventilators — and there’s not nearly enough of them.
As seen in Italy, when existing health services are overrun by a surge of critical patients requiring ventilators, doctors must sometimes make the painful choice of deciding who lives and who dies. No country is immune from this risk, not even the smug types living north of the border. If this pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that vaunted public healthcare systems are overstretched and vulnerable, not a magic bullet that insulates all from harm.
But I digress.
As reported by Autocar, the UK may be on the cusp of seeing automakers operating within its borders turning their labor towards the production of ventilators, not cars. Reports suggest that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson may make the ask today. Ford, Honda, Rolls-Royce, and construction equipment manufacturer JCB are said to be the companies waiting to be tapped.
Britain’s national health service says only 5,000 ventilators exist in the country — enough to handle a normal cold and flu season, but not a sweeping pandemic of which severe pneumonia is the most significant symptom. There’s no natural immunity to this disease, either. The UK now watches as COVID-19 cases creep up both in that country and those across the Channel.
Spokespersons from Ford, JCB, and Honda admit the companies have been contacted by the UK government, with discussions ongoing to figure out how best to accommodate the building of ventilators.
A statement from the Prime Minister’s Officer reads, “Preparing for the spread of the coronavirus outbreak is a national priority and we’re calling on the manufacturing industry and all those with relevant expertise who might be able to help to come together to help the country tackle this national crisis.”
“We need to step up production of vital equipment such as ventilators so that we can all help the most vulnerable, and we need businesses to come to us and help in this national effort.”
Whether or not the automakers move forward in plugging the ventilator gap, or whether such an operation is even feasible at all UK factories, remains to be seen.
Oldguy on Mar 16, 2020
" smug types living north of the border." Really? As a reader since the early days of Farago, I've seen many changes, and it's just my personal opinion that this current group has this website circling the drain. Of course I won't let the door smack me in the a$$ on my way out.
Cprescott on Mar 17, 2020
Why wasn't Tesla asked? They could price them as a luxury product, then call them a luxury product, and then build 20% that work right out of the factory only to have 80% sent back to another tent where the wonderful Tesla craftsmanship can be given a second chance to reach 20% again. Wash, rinse, and repeat.
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