Volkswagen tests ventilator output as carmakers join coronavirus fight

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German carmaker Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE said on Friday it was joining other manufacturers around the world to explore using 3D printing to make hospital ventilators to combat the coronavirus.

FILE PHOTO: Volkswagen logo is seen at the LA Auto Show in Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 20, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

Governments are enlisting automakers including Ford F.N, General Motors GM.N, Ferrari RACE.MI and Nissan 7201.T to ramp up production of ventilators and other equipment they are short of to treat the fast-spreading disease.

In a statement, Volkswagen said it had assembled a task force, was testing materials and checking supply chains to see how it can use 3D printing to help manufacture hospital ventilators and other life-saving equipment.

“Medical equipment is a new field for us. But as soon as we understand the requirements, and receive a blueprint, we can get started,” Volkswagen said, adding that prototype components had been printed and its Skoda arm was included in the project.

A spokesman said the Wolfsburg-based, multi-brand company, which has more than 125 industrial 3D printers, was in close contact with governments and other authorities to assess needs.

General Motors in a statement said it was working with Ventec Life Systems to enable the medical device maker to leverage the U.S. automaker’s logistics and expertise to build more ventilators.

“We are working closely with Ventec to rapidly scale up production of their critically important respiratory products to support our country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” GM CEO Mary Barra said.

Volkswagen’s sports car brand Porsche also said on Friday it wanted to help in relief efforts. “We are collecting ideas about what we could do in terms of humanitarian help,” Chief Executive Oliver Blume said on a call to discuss earnings.

Munich-based carmaker BMW BMWG.DE said it too was ready to help. "The production of components using 3D printing technology is a possibility," it said.

Sweden's carmaker Volvo VOLVb.ST urged all governments to take the crisis equally seriously and limit movements.

“I think for the economy, we need to do something drastic, rather then trying half-hearted measures that drag on forever,” Chief Executive Hakan Samuelsson said. “We are seeing the effect from this coronavirus is increasing every day.”

The auto industry’s chances of recovery depended on coordinated action, Samuelsson told Reuters.

“There is a big difference between countries. Some have curfews, with restaurants and schools closed. In other countries there are less drastic measures. I just think we need to synchronise that more.”

Reporting by Jan Schwartz in Hamburg, Edward Taylor in Frankfurt and Joern Poltz in Munich; additional reporting by Bhargav Acharya; Writing by Edward Taylor; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Cynthia Osterman