Toyota Factories to Make Protective Gear to Fight COVID-19 Shortages

March 27, 2020 Updated: March 27, 2020

Toyota is marshaling idled U.S. factories to make protective gear amid outbreak-related shortages, and is finalizing deals with medical device makers to boost production of respirators and ventilators.

The Japanese carmaker announced Friday that it was joining the effort to assist with the COVID-19 supply shortfall in the United States. Several factories would begin producing much needed gear, the company said in a release, which listed other initiatives like cash donations to nonprofit organizations and payment relief for customers.

Mass production of 3D-printed face shields is to kick off next week, the company said, adding that it stands ready to make COVID-19 masks as it seeks partners for filters.

“Toyota’s core value has always been to contribute to society in meaningful ways beyond providing mobility for our customers,” said Ted Ogawa, the incoming CEO of Toyota in North America.

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An assembled face shield is held up in this March 27, 2020 photo supplied by Toyota. (Provided by Toyota Newsroom)

The company said it is closing on deals with “at least two companies” that make ventilators and respirators that would boost their production capacity.

“With our plants idled and our dealers focused on servicing customers, we are eager to contribute our expertise and know-how in order to help quickly bring to market the medical supplies and equipment needed to combat the COVID crisis. Our message to the medical equipment community is we are here to help, please utilize our expertise,” Ogawa said.

Toyota also announced that its financing arm would be offering payment relief options to customers.

“We’re all in this together as we combat COVID-19. At Toyota, we’re working to help manufacture essential medical supplies and to support our communities and our customers,” Toyota said in a March 27 tweet, which showed photos of plant staff and protective masks laid out on a workbench.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump on Friday invoked emergency powers to require General Motors to build much needed ventilators for COVID-19 patients after he accused the largest U.S. automaker of “wasting time” during negotiations.

Trump invoked the Defense Production Act, saying “negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course.”

He said the action “will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives.”

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A ventilator is seen at the New York City Emergency Management Warehouse, where 400 ventilators arrived and before being shipped out for distribution, due to concerns over the rapid spread of the CCP virus in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on March 24, 2020. (Caitlin Ochs/Reuters)

GM said in a statement in response to Trump it has been working with ventilator firm Ventec Life Systems and GM suppliers “around the clock for over a week to meet this urgent need” and said its commitment to Ventec’s ventilators “has never wavered.”

The act grants the president power to expand industrial production of any key materials or products for national security and other reasons.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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