Johannesburg - When I sat down to write this piece last night, the UN had just broken the news that global coronavirus infections had surpassed 1 million cases.
At the time of writing, 51 484 people had died from COVID-19.
People are recovering too, with around 210 000 recoveries reported, but we're still in for a fight if the world is to get through this pandemic as quickly as possible.
Throughout the week, numerous car companies around the world (particularly in the USA and Europe, which have been hardest hit) have been pledging their support in the form of donations or the engineering of key equipment that's needed by essential services workers and health professionals.
Here's a quick look at some of the car companies that are fighting back against coronavirus:
Earlier this week, the Ford Motor Company committed to producing 50 000 ventilators in conjunction with General Electric in Michigan in the USA. The United States is now the hardest hit in terms of infections.
Ford is providing its manufacturing capabilities to quickly scale production while GE Healthcare will provide its clinical expertise and will license the current ventilator design from Airon Corporation – a small, privately held company specialising in high-tech pneumatic life support products.
The ventilator uses a design that operates on air pressure without the need for electricity, addressing the needs of most COVID-19 patients. Its production can be quickly scaled to help meet growing demand in America.
According to TechCrunch, GM expects to deliver 20 000 masks to essential services frontlines on April 8, and soon after will be able to produce 50 000 masks a day once its Warren production line is at full capacity. These protective masks remain a vital piece of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare staff to protect themselves against the coronavirus-causing droplets that are spread by patients through coughing and sneezing in clinical settings.
GM turned to global partners to create this manufacturing line within a week, sourcing materials from its existing supply chain. It has acquired manufacturing equipment from several smaller businesses in the USA. US President Donald Trump signed a presidential directive that ordered GM to produce ventilators and to prioritise federal contracts, however, GM had already announced that it would manufacture the critical medical equipment needed for patients suffering from COVID-19.
Honda has come to the party too, led by an initial $1 million (R18m) pledge to food banks and meal programs across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The donation is intended to provide the most vulnerable with access to food. In addition to this pledge, the company is also launching a special matching-gift-programme that enables Honda associates to make monetary donations to food programmes in their local communities, matching up to $1 000 for each individual gift.
The company says its pledge to address food insecurity forms part of the broader effort it is undertaking to provide relief to communities, customers, and dealers during this uncertain time. In addition, building on a longstanding tradition of community volunteerism, Honda associates also will be empowered to play a key part in a “virtual volunteer” campaign to help those most in need.
Lamborghini and Ferrari
In Italy, another country that's been hit extremely hard by the coronavirus, Automobili Lamborghini is converting the departments of its super sports car production plant in Sant’Agata Bolognese to produce surgical masks and protective plexiglass shields.
The masks will be donated to the Sant’Orsola-Malpighi Hospital in Bologna to be used in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Work on this project is being carried out by personnel of the saddlery department that produces the interiors and special customisation for Lamborghini cars. They will sew 1000 masks a day. In terms of medical shields, the aim is to produce at least 200 units a day, using 3D printers within the carbon production plant and the Research and Development department.
Last month, the Agnelli family, who control the Ferrari Formula 1 team and road car business, as well as the FIAT Chrysler company and Juventus football club, said they will make a €10 million donation to the Italian Civil Protection Department, and a social assistance organisation called Specchio dei Tempi/La Stampa, to help both authorities deal with the health and social needs in the city of Turin and the region of Piedmont as the virus continues to spread.
The family’s companies have also sourced and purchased a total of 150 ventilators, alongside other medical equipment from various overseas suppliers, and are preparing for their immediate air transport to Italy to help ease the burden on the health services, according to F1.com.
Audi is supporting medical and social institutions in its home regions in Germany and providing humanitarian aid at the national and international levels. The company says it is giving €5 million in emergency aid to fight against COVID-19. Chairman of the Board of Management of Audi, Markus Duesmann, said the coronavirus pandemic presents extreme challenges worldwide: "At the moment, one thing counts above all: the health of our employees, their families, and society as a whole. And to protect it, we need to flatten the infection curve.”
Peter Mosch, Chairman of the General Works Council of Audi global added: “The willingness of our team to help in the corona crisis is enormous. Everyone wants to do their bit to help shape a secure future after the crisis. By playing an active role in the matter of donations, we are meeting our great responsibility towards the regions of our sites.” Audi employees who want to get involved and provide active support can submit their offers and inquiries via an internal Audi e-mail address. Audi's first major cash donations are already underway; on Monday, March 30, the company handed over a total of €600 000 to the hospitals at its home sites in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm – this money is on top of the five million euros.
CLOSER TO HOME
Isuzu Motors South Africa (IMSAf) has made its media fleet available to Gift of the Givers in support of the organisation's plan to augment public health services. Gift of the Givers has set up a Covid-19 testing facility in Johannesburg and intends to extend this service to Durban while also supporting medical professionals with protective wear and supplying essential medical equipment.
Denise van Huyssteen, IMSAf Corporate Affairs, Business Strategy and Legal Executive, said motoring media will not be able to evaluate vehicles during the nationwide lockdown period: "Instead of the bakkies parked during this time, they could be used to help curb the spread of the COVID-19."
Gift of the Givers medical personnel will use the bakkies during the lockdown period. According to Badr Kazi, Gift of the Givers Director and National Coordinator, reliable transport is always needed during crises and the bakkies will be deployed accordingly. "We are grateful for transport support. Isuzu has always been a trusted and proactive partner of Gift of the Givers. Through their support we are able to reach many more vulnerable communities across South Africa," Kazi added.
Jaguar Land Rover
Jaguar Land Rover South Africa has lent 11 vehicles to the South African Red Cross Society (SARCS) in order to keep the organisation mobile in its efforts to control and minimise the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The vehicles, which come from Jaguar Land Rover’s Experience and marketing fleets, have been supplied free of charge and will be dispatched nationwide to boost transport capacity for SARCS. Red Cross volunteers will now be deployed to critical areas where they will engage communities and educate on how the virus is transmitted and how to avoid risks.
In many vulnerable areas, the South African population has limited access to mainstream media and social platforms such as TV, Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp which provide instant communication and updates of COVID-19. SARCS will use alternative communication methods such as megaphones to conduct mass community education and awareness while observing the social distance prevention rule. The main focus areas for SARCS will be on hygiene promotion which entails, hand washing and sanitising techniques, information dissemination and awareness creation, demystifying myths on COVID-19, and the distribution of masks and gloves, according to JLR's spokespeople.
For more information on how you can help stop the spread of coronavirus, visit the
IOL Motoring and Drive360 salute all the car companies around the world that are doing whatever possible to save lives and bring an end to this global pandemic.