Fiat Chrysler producing, donating face masks for first responders

Fiat Chrysler producing, donating face masks for first responders

COVID-19 updates: Navistar shutting down Ohio plant, Cummins pausing Indiana production, Marelli cycling plants.

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Cleveland, Ohio – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is joining General Motors (GM) in supporting health care production during the COVID-19 pandemic, producing face masks and donating them to first responders.

The automaker plans to make and donate more than 1 million protective face masks per month. Production capacity is being installed this week and the company will start manufacturing face masks in the coming weeks with initial distribution across the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

FCA CEO Mike Manley said, “Protecting our first responders and health care workers has never been more important. 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. 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.”  

The face masks are to be donated by FCA to police, EMTs and firefighters, as well as to workers in hospitals and health care clinics.

FCA's announcement comes after GM announced plans to support ventilator production by giving Ventec Life Systems access to its supplier network, logistics operations, and purchasing power. Those actions accelerated Monday with GM officials saying the automaker could produce some ventilator components at plants shuttered by the disease outbreak.

FCA officials did not share details on how or exactly where the masks would be made or what type of masks it plans to produce. Health care organizations in hard-hit areas are running low on all types of masks, but officials have warned that only N95 respirators have proven effective in stopping the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Still, with shortages of standard and highly filtered masks spreading, any production will be helpful.

Other COVID-19 news includes:

Navistar closes Ohio plant, withdraws financial outlook

Bus and commercial truck manufacturer Navistar shuttered its Springfield, Ohio, plant for two weeks as it can’t get enough parts to finish construction. Ohio is under a mandatory shelter-in-place order from its governor, an edict preventing most businesses not deemed essential from operating.

In addition, the company withdrew the financial guidance it issues at the end of January, numbers that are all-but worthless given the dramatic shock COVID-19 has had on the economy.

“Navistar cannot predict if or when any further disruptions will occur due to the rapidly changing environment as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve. The company believes its future financial results will be impacted, but at this time, the magnitude of those impacts is uncertain,” company officials said.

Cummins stops diesel engine production for Ram trucks

On Monday, engine and powertrain maker Cummins Inc. suspended operations in Walesboro, Indiana, for two weeks in response to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ (FCA’s) suspension of manufacturing. Some FCA Ram commercial trucks use Cummins engines.

In addition to the FCA work stoppage, Cummins officials said they’re also reacting to lower commercial truck production rates on what was already expected to be a light sales years.

“The company cannot predict if and when further suspensions or shutdowns may arise. Possible causes for further shutdowns include changes in customer demand, shortfalls in supplier deliveries, and the impact of government regulations or mandates,” Cummins executives said.

As with Navistar, Cummins is withdrawing financial guidance, saying the rest of 2020 is too unpredictable to analyze.

“Cummins is in a strong financial position, we have experienced leaders who have managed through several challenging situations in the past and we will successfully navigate through this difficult period,” said Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger.

Marelli suspends U.S. production for two weeks

Automotive supplier Marelli is suspending North American production for most plants, staggering shutdowns to continuing supplying some components.

“Closures will happen in a staggered fashion, with the overall duration to be evaluated every few days. In some cases, operations may continue on a reduced scale to align with customer needs,” Marelli officials said.

About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and Today's eMobility and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 20 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.

rschoenberger@gie.net