Ford's New Business Is Coming Along

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
fords new business is coming along

It’s a temporary foray in a wholly new direction, but Ford’s new line of products is picking up steam — with one new item ready to enter production on Tuesday.

Place the cynical, always suspicious side of your brain on pause for a moment and see what the Blue Oval is doing for your health.

Like those of most other auto manufacturers, Ford’s idled workers and facilities are being put to use cranking out much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers on the front lines of the coronavirus battle. The automakers went into the effort voluntarily, though you read last week how rival General Motors was ordered to produce ventilators via a massive federal contract and a piece of legislation (GM’s initiative was already underway at the time).

On Monday, Ford issued an update on how things are going. Most notably, Ford announced it has crafted, with the help of partner 3M, a new powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) that’s ready to enter production April 14th. Designed and readied for production in four weeks, the unit will be built by 90 UAW workers at Ford’s Vreeland facility near Flat Rock, Michigan.

The PAPR (seen above, disassembled and not) “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 8 hours,” the automaker said in a statement. “The air blower system – similar to the fan found in F-150’s ventilated seats – is powered by a rechargeable, portable battery, helping keep the respirator in constant use by first-line defenders.”

While Ford says it has the capacity to build 100,000 of these, the unit first needs National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health approval, which it says it expects before the end of the month.

Ford’s Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Michigan is tasked with building 3 million face masks. Some 30 UAW workers are on that job, with their numbers expected to grow to 80. The automaker also teamed with supplier Joyson Safety Systems to construct hospital gowns out of airbag material; Ford says output should reach 75,000 per week by this coming weekend, and 100,000 thereafter. The supplier aims to supply 1.3 million gowns by the beginning of July.

Elsewhere, engineers from Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant are working with Thermo Fisher Scientific to boost output of COVID-19 collection kits. As well, some 3 million plastic face shields have already rolled out of Ford factories in the U.S., Canada, Thailand, and India, and a GE Healthcare ventilator — a piece of hardware that’s key to keeping critical patients alive — will enter production at Ford’s Rawsonville Components Plant in Michigan next week. Production should reach 50,000 by Independence Day. A similar effort, though with a different partner, is underway in hard-hit UK.

Hopefully things will have diminished to something approaching normalcy by the time people start speaking of July the 4th.

[Images: Ford]

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4 of 17 comments
  • Steve Biro Steve Biro on Apr 14, 2020

    All of this is great. But why do I think Ford and GM are going to ramp up production just in time to be late for the worst of this pandemic?

  • Amca Amca on Apr 14, 2020

    "While Ford says it has the capacity to build 100,000 of these, the unit first needs National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health approval, which it says it expects before the end of the month." It's going to take another . . . 17 days . . . for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to look this over? I'd like to know what lo' NIOSH needs to do that takes that long. I'm all ears, here. Convince me this can't be done faster.

  • FreedMike This article fails to mention that Toyota is also investing heavily in solid state battery tech - which would solve a lot of inherent EV problems - and plans to deploy it soon. course, Toyota being Toyota, it will use the tech in hybrids first, which is smart - that will give them the chance to iron out the wrinkles, so to speak. But having said that, I’m with Toyota here - I’m not sold on an all EV future happening anytime soon. But clearly the market share for these vehicles has nowhere to go but up; how far up depends mainly on charging availability. And whether Toyota’s competitors are all in is debatable. Plenty of bet-hedging is going on among makers in the North American market.
  • Jeff S I am not against EVs but I completely understand Toyota's position. As for Greenpeace putting Toyota at the bottom of their environmental list is more drama. A good hybrid uses less gas, is cleaner than most other ICE, and is more affordable than most EVs. Prius has proven longevity and low maintenance cost. Having had a hybrid Maverick since April and averaging 40 to 50 mpg in city driving it has been smooth driving and very economical. Ford also has very good hybrids and some of the earlier Escapes are still going strong at 300k miles. The only thing I would have liked in my hybrid Maverick would be a plug in but it didn't come with it. If Toyota made a plug in hybrid compact pickup like the Maverick it would sell well. I would consider an EV in the future but price, battery technology, and infrastructure has to advance and improve. I don't buy a vehicle based on the recommendation of Greenpeace, as a status symbol, or peer pressure. I buy a vehicle on what best needs my needs and that I actually like.
  • Mobes Kind of a weird thing that probably only bothers me, but when you see someone driving a car with ball joints clearly about to fail. I really don't want to be around a car with massive negative camber that's not intentional.
  • Jeff S How reliable are Audi? Seems the Mazda, CRV, and Rav4 in the higher trim would not only be a better value but would be more reliable in the long term. Interior wise and the overall package the Mazda would be the best choice.
  • Pickles69 They have a point. All things (or engines/propulsion) to all people. Yet, when the analogy of being, “a department store,” of options is used, I shudder. Department stores are failing faster than any other retail. Just something to chew on.