Automakers Step Up During COVID-19

By Cliff Lafreniere

During the Second World War, many Canadian businesses retooled their operations to manufacture war materials for the Allied countries.

Canada (and the world) is now fighting a much different type of war, and Canadian businesses have stepped up to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and necessary supplies for health care professionals and other frontline workers.

Major auto manufacturers, in particular, are among the many industries that have made significant contributions to the fight against Covid-19. Auto manufacturers have leveraged their assembly plants, supply chain networks and expertise to provide face shields, ventilators and other items.

Although major auto manufacturers in North American have shut down production of automobiles, it is inspiring to see how quickly Ford and other manufacturers have pivoted from making automobiles to making medical supplies and equipment, and how our industry has rallied together during this difficult time.

The Ford Motor Company (the brand that I represent), with support of Unifor Local 200, is producing face shields at its Windsor engine plant and making them available to Ford dealers across Canada. Dealers are distributing the face shields to hospitals in their communities.

My dealership will receive a shipment of 100 face shields on May 4th, which we will donate to Kirkland and District Hospital. We have requested more of these protective devices for a later date, which we plan to distribute locally.

In the U.S., Ford engineers are using their ingenuity and expertise to convert F-150 seat fans to manufacture much-needed respirators and ventilators. The company has teamed up with GE Healthcare and 3M to increase production of medical equipment and supplies.

Ford has a proud history of giving back to people and communities in need across Canada, and I am enormously proud to be a part of this company. (Other automakers have proud histories of providing support for communities at home and abroad as well.)

In 2016, the Ford Motor Company of Canada and Canadian Ford dealers donated more than $500,000 to the Canadian Red Cross for relief and recovery efforts related to the wildfires that impacted Fort McMurray and surrounding areas. 

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada has donated approximately 1,000 N95 ventilator masks gloves, protective eyewear and sanitary boot protectors to four local hospitals. The company has used it production system expertise to streamline the design of the masks.

Toyota Canada is also working with Inksmith, a Canadian 3D printing company that is manufacturing face shields for medical workers.

GM Canada is preparing parts of the Oshawa plant to produce face masks based on the GM production model already working in Michigan. The company plans to manufacture approximately one million masks per month, at cost, for the Canadian government with an estimated 50 employees supporting two shifts of production.

Some automakers have introduced relief programs and special financing arrangements to help customers who are affected by Covid-19.

For instance, Hyundai is offering existing finance and lease customers payment deferral options, and new customers have the option of a six-month deferral program on all new vehicles financed at a Hyundai dealership.

For Mazda customers whose leases are coming due but not “in a position to replace their vehicle at this time,” the automaker is offering lease extensions. Nissan Canada Finance will work with customers to discuss payment arrangements or deferments.

If you have a finance or lease concern about your vehicle, contact the finance arm of your respective auto brand. There is no common financial aid program in place in Canada; each automaker is handling financial concerns of customers on a case-by-case basis.

Next week, I’ll share some stories about how registered new car dealerships, and the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, are partnering with businesses and agencies to provide assistance to frontline healthcare professionals in their communities.

 

This column represents the views and values of the TADA. Write to president@tada.ca or go to tada.ca. Cliff Lafreniere is president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association and is president of Pinewood Park Motors (Ford) in Kirkland Lake. For information about automotive trends and careers, visit carsandjobs.com.

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