(Bloomberg Opinion) — In the face of a global health emergency, automakers are stepping in — or being summoned — to make ventilators. Can they manufacture at the scale required, with the world needing a 10-fold increase in production to cope with the surge in coronavirus infections? It will be a severe challenge.
Car companies such as Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. are a natural choice to mass-produce these medical devices. They churn out millions of vehicles every year, procuring and bringing together hundreds of parts from around the world at rapid speed. Ventilators needs anything from 400 to 1,000 components from tubes and sensors to pressure valves, humidification systems and filters. There is significant overlap between the engineering of ventilators and cars, which both bring together electronic, electric, hydraulic and mechanical aerodynamics expertise.
The parts are mostly different, though. The constituents of a ventilator