Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has confirmed it has tasked a Chinese facility to manufacture face masks, which should start in the coming weeks. The distribution will be largely directed to U.S., Canada, and Mexico. According to the automaker, it aims to produce 1 million masks a month, which will be donated to hospital and clinic workers, firefighters, EMTs, and police.
"In addition to the support we are giving to increase the production of ventilators, we canvassed our contacts across the healthcare industry and it was very clear that there is an urgent and critical need for face masks," FCA CEO Mike Manley said in a statement. "We've marshaled the resources of the FCA Group to focus immediately on installing production capacity for making masks and supporting those most in need on the front line of this pandemic."
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is the latest automaker to direct its manufacturing efforts toward the coronavirus pandemic. The company announced Monday it would start manufacturing face masks and donate them to healthcare workers in the U.S.
A shortage of protective equipment such as respirator masks, gowns, and gloves is what's currently plaguing not just the U.S -- it's a major problem that spans the entire globe.
To help fill in the scarcity of medical supplies, several automakers have shifted their expertise toward the ongoing health crisis. Tesla, VW, Ford, and GM are starting to produce ventilators, an important piece of medical equipment for patients with COVID-19, the respiratory disease the coronavirus causes.
FCA's announcement follows last week's plea from U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who requested construction companies to donate their stocks of N95 respirator masks to hospitals and stop ordering more for the time being. Several companies have since responded, including those not in the construction sector, including Tesla, IBM, Facebook, and Apple.
There is no clinically proven treatment for COVID-19 yet, so ventilators are relied upon to help people breathe and fight the disease. There are about 160,000 ventilators in the United States and another 12,700 in the National Strategic Supply, the NYT reported.
Last week, GM announced it has partnered with Ventec Life Systems to ramp up the production of ventilators, while Elon Musk's Tesla has partnered with Medtronic. SpaceX, another company, spearheaded by Musk, will also work on ventilators. Ford also confirmed to CNET Roadshow that it's looking at ways to support ventilator production for the U.S. and the UK.