Automakers, other companies make ventilators and medical supplies

In the wake of the global novel coronavirus pandemic, common medical supplies like ventilators, medical masks, hospital gowns and hand sanitizer have become scarce — and manufacturers of such supplies cannot keep up. 

So in the past week, manufacturers from fashion to autos have turned to making medical supplies to help combat COVID-19.  But in a series of tweets on Friday, President Donald Trump condemned car manufacturers for their slow ventilator production and said he believes companies are not moving fast enough

“As usual with ‘this’ General Motors, things just never seem to work out. They said they were going to give us 40,000 much needed Ventilators, “very quickly”. Now they are saying it will only be 6000, in late April, and they want top dollar. Always a mess with Mary B. Invoke ‘P’” President Donald Trump tweeted on March 27, referring to GM Mary Barra and the Defense Production Act, which authorizes him to legally mandate the production of goods from private and public companies.

“General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!!” Trump said in another tweet on Friday, referring to the Lordstown, Ohio assembly plant that GM sold last year to an electric truck start-up.

In response to Trump’s Friday tweet, GM and Ventec Life Systems said they will build ventilators at the carmaker’s parts plant in Indiana. The Michigan-based car maker is donating resources at cost and will deploy about 1,000 American workers to produce the ventilators, the company said in a statement.

Michigan-based Ford said it will assist Boston-based General Electric Healthcare with ventilator production at a Ford factory. It is also producing Powered Air-Purifying Respirators in partnership with 3M, based in Minnesota. Ford’s seat fans from its F-150 pickup truck will be used as part of a new design for ventilators. Ford will also assist ventilator production in the UK.

Japanese carmaker Toyota Motor Corp.’s North American unit will help two companies increase production of ventilators and respirators, the company said on Friday.

Exor, the Amsterdam-based owner of Ferrari and Fiat Chrysler, is in talks to assist Bologna-based Siare Engineering, as they ramp up ventilator production from 160 units to 500 a month.  In addition to manufacturing operations, car manufacturers have access to plastic, metal, and electronic supplies. Ferrari, the Italy-based luxury car maker, has sent specialized personnel to assist Siare, but they are also planning to manufacture ventilator parts in-house at its Maranello headquarters. They will be joined by Fiat Chrysler, according to reports

Italian car parts maker Magneti Marelli, previously owned by Exor, makes car parts for Volkswagen, PSA and Fiat Chrysler. It suspended production at most European plants from March 13 to March 27 due to COVID-19, but reportedly may reopen plants sooner since they are also in talks with Siare to assist with ventilator production. 

Meanwhile, Tesla CEO Elon Musk purchased over 1,255 ventilators from China on March 20 and has donated them to Los Angeles hospitals. And it is donating “hundreds of ventilators” to New York City and state, including public hospitals.

This comes after Elon Musk tweeted on March 18 that Tesla would make ventilators “if there is a shortage.” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio responded by saying New York had a shortage, to which Musk said they would engage in talks.

While many carmakers have answered the call for ventilator production, some question the feasibility of retooling car factories for ventilator production.

“We are considering using our 3D capabilities to help with the production of medical equipment, however, we are not quite there yet,” a Volkswagen spokeswoman told Yahoo Finance UK. “We are still investigating what exactly is needed and if that’s really feasible.”

Here is an up-to-date list of other major manufactures that are re-directing their resources to producing COVID-19 medical supplies.

Ventilator production, respirator valves and other parts


The aircraft manufacturer is planning to 3D print ventilator parts. 


Dyson, the UK-based vacuum and hand-dryer maker, has also been approached about making ventilators by the UK government. 


The teledentistry company will use its 3D printers to produce respirator valves, as well as medical masks. “Reports of medical supply shortages are very concerning and we have the production capacity to help in the printing of plastic materials. Due to recent automations that increased our printing output capacity, we’re able to easily add this production to our current clear aligner therapy lines,” said SmileDirectClub chief executive officer David Katzman in a statement


A Washington-based custom-insole shoe maker, is 3D printing medical supplies, the company announced March 24.

Hand sanitizer, medical masks, hospital gowns, and protective supplies

In addition to ventilator production, carmakers Toyota, GM, Fiat and Ford are producing other protective gear.

Toyota will begin producing 3D printed face shields the week of March 30, the company announced on Friday. The first batch will go to hospitals in Houston, Dallas, Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan, Toyota said. The company is also looking for partners to produce COVID-19 mask filters, Toyota said.

In an employee-led initiative, GM will begin medical mask production, ramping up to 50,000 masks per day with the potential to double that capacity, the company said in an email on Friday. While Fiat Chrysler plans to make 1 million face masks a month for medical workers. Ford will also 3D print an anticipated 100,000 face shields per week. The company has started delivering “tens of thousands” of Ford-produced face shields to hospitals and police agencies, including the NYPD, Ford said in a statement Friday.

Other companies:

Canada Goose

Canada Goose, the Toronto-based parka maker, will begin producing 10,000 scrubs and patient gowns next week. About 100 employees at two factories will help create the scrubs and gowns for donation to local hospitals.

“Now is the time to put our manufacturing resources and capabilities to work for the greater good,” Canada Goose’s chief executive Dani Reiss said in a statement.

Christian Siriano

Fashion designer Christian Siriano, whose designs are seen in Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s and other retailers, has offered his sewing team to make medical masks in New York. Sirano has already produced a prototype, but he plans to make several versions to fit people with varying needs. 

Eileen Fisher

Eileen Fisher, the New York-based clothing retailer, announced March 25 that they would produce gowns, masks and other medical gear, in partnership with Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and the New York City Economic Development Corp.


Gap, Inc., the San Francisco-based owner of Gap, Old Navy, Athleta, Banana Republic and others will make masks, gowns and scrubs at its partner factories. They plan to deliver millions of PPEs (personal protective equipment) in California, the company announced March 24.


President Trump announced Saturday that the Hanes clothing company will be retrofitting its factories and working with the government to make N95 masks for health care professionals.

Joann Fabrics

Joann Fabrics, the Ohio-based fabric and craft retailer, announced March 23 that it would give away free fabric, elastic and other necessary materials to customers willing to make homemade masks for donation to hospitals. The company will offer curbside pickup of its mask-making kits, with enough materials for five masks.

Additionally, where CDC-recommended and local guidelines allow, Joann Fabrics will allow customers to use in-store sewing machines, materials and guidance for mask-making. All open Joann locations will serve as collection points to distribute masks to hospitals.

Lafayette 148 New York

Fashion company Lafayette 148 New York, based in New York City, is partnering with the Economic Development Corporation and the Brooklyn Navy Yard to produce surgical gowns. Manufacturing will begin as soon as the prototype is approved, according to a company representative.

Los Angeles Apparel

Los Angeles Apparel, the LA clothing manufacturer, aims to produce 300,000 medical masks and 50,000 hospital gowns per week, free to Los Angeles hospitals or available for purchase to consumers, according to reports.


L’Oréal, the France-based cosmetics company, has re-tooled its production facilities to create hand sanitizer and hydroalcoholic gel for French and European health authorities, French pharmacies and European food distributors.

“In this unprecedented crisis, it is our responsibility to contribute to the collective effort in every way possible. Through these actions, L’Oréal expresses our recognition, our support and our solidarity towards those who are demonstrating extraordinary courage and selflessness in their efforts to combat this pandemic,” said Jean-Paul Agon, L’Oréal chairman and chief executive officer, in a statement.


Paris-based LVMH, which owns Louis Vuitton and Dior, announced it will use the company’s French perfume factories to produce hand sanitizer that the company will donate to health authorities, LVMH announced Sunday.

“LVMH will continue to honour this commitment for as long as necessary,” the company said in a statement

Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren, the New York-based fashion company, will make 250,000 masks and 25,000 isolation medical gowns in the U.S., in addition to making a $10 million charitable donation to COVID-19 relief.

“As we move through this challenging time, we are focused on continuing to be the beacon of optimism and unity that Ralph Lauren and our brands have always been,” said president and CEO Patrice Louvet.


Renault, the French car maker, is using its 3D printers to make medical visors for health workers in Spain. The company hopes to expand its efforts to make ventilator parts.


Inditex, the Spain-based owner of fashion retailer Zara, announced March 18 that it will produce hospital gowns and surgical masks for patients and medical workers. The company said it has already donated 10,000 masks and expects to deliver 300,000 additional masks by the end of the week. Zara representatives said that they are actively sourcing medical-grade fabric for hospital gowns. 

Ballroom dancers and dressmakers

A ballroom dancer, a health care CEO and 14 ballroom dressmakers have partnered to produce 1 million masks in wha† they are calling “Million Mask MOVEment.”

Tony Dovolani, the professional ballroom dancer known for his appearances in “Dancing with the Stars,” has commissioned 14 ballroom dressmakers and seamstresses at Dore Designs in Florida, Dance America in Florida and Creative Canopy in San Francisco to produce medical-grade masks. The seamstresses are working six days a week to produce and ship masks.

“I’ve talked to many hospitals that are desperate for these masks… Then I thought about all these seamstresses that are not working because people currently don’t need gowns for competitions. I thought if we could combine forces, we could really make a difference,” said Lyndean Brick, president and CEO of health care consulting firm Advis, Inc., who initiated the project in partnership with Chicago’s Fred Astaire Dance Studios.

Distilleries and breweries

Breweries and distilleries in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Sweden, Australia and other locations have begun producing hand sanitizer by mixing pure alcohol with glycerol and hydrogen peroxide, as the novel coronavirus prompts global shortages in hospitals and pharmacies. 

Pernod Ricard, the Paris-based spirits and wine company that makes Absolut vodka and Jameson whiskey, said it will manufacture hand sanitizer at U.S. factories for donation. They will also manufacture hand sanitizer in Sweden, Ireland and Sapin. Additionally, the company will donate 70,000 liters of alcohol to laboratories manufacturing hand sanitizer for donation, the company announced March 18.

“By sharing our resources and making our production facilities available wherever they are needed, we are supporting our fellow citizens and local authorities. I would like to thank our employees who have worked hard to make everything possible in record time, all over the world,” said Alexandre Ricard, chairman and chief executive officer of Pernod Ricard in a statement.

Brussels’ Anheuser-Busch, the world’s largest brewer, has produced 26,000 bottles of 250-milliliter hand sanitizer bottles, for donation to pharmacies and health care workers. The company is also donating alcohol that has been removed from its alcohol-free beers, in the amount of some 50,000 liters. Alcohol will go to hospitals in Belgium, Britain, France, Italy and the Netherlands.

Even smaller distilleries are beginning production. Brooklyn’s Greenhook Ginsmiths in New York City, in partnership with Brooklyn bottled cocktail maker St. Agrestis Spirits, already has orders for 4,200 gallons-worth of hand sanitizer. Some distilleries are donating hand sanitizer, while others are asking for a small donation, according to reports.

One Canadian company, Dixon’s Distilled Spirits, has donated 3,000 bottles of sanitizer to local police, health workers and care homes. And a Toronto-based distillery, Spirit of York Distillery, began selling hand sanitizer for C$3 on March 19. It offers it for free to seniors or those who can’t afford it. Proceeds from the sale of the hand sanitizer will go to a local food bank, the company said. 

In the U.S., the FDA announced it would relax hand sanitizer rules on March 20, and the UK announced March 18 that it would fast-track applications from companies to make denatured alcohol for sanitizing. Canada also agreed to lift some rules on hand sanitizer, disinfectant and equipment sales, said a statement by Health Canada

This article will continue to be updated as companies announce plans to manufacture medical supplies during the coronavirus outbreak.

Sarah Paynter is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @sarahapaynter

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