Across the continent and in spite of its own economic distress, the auto industry is kicking in to battle coronavirus. Unfortunately, the industry and this nation need to do much, much more.
While deservedly proud of its role in World War II — and even in the wake of 9/11 — the U.S. auto industry's vast manufacturing might may not be the best, most-immediate weapon for the current crisis. The front lines are in hospitals and clinics, where brave medical workers risk their own lives to save others infected with this deadly, flu-like virus. Tragically and appallingly, they already face heart-wrenching shortages of basic protective gear such as masks and gloves — things this industry uses daily in abundance.
Just as it has in other calamities, the auto industry and others are helping. General Motors, Ford, FCA and others have begun manufacturing much-needed ventilators, as well as respirators and other protective equipment vital to keeping alive both patients and medical professionals.
This "Arsenal of Health" response harks back to this industry's history, and again will require time, money sacrifice and creativity, some of which is already on display.
For now, there is something vitally urgent that every automaker, every supplier, every dealer and every aftermarket service provider can do: Call your local hospital and donate — or sell at cost, if you must — every piece of useful personal protection equipment that you can.
This equipment, which is so important to protecting workers in a variety of occupations across the industry, can be immediately repurposed to protect local health care workers, some of whom have resorted to protecting themselves with plastic garbage bags. No matter where these supplies are located, they are needed more by medical workers right now. Giving them to local hospitals, first responders and others will ease the demand strain while additional manufacturing capacity for safety equipment comes on line.
There's no telling when automotive assembly and other business activities will return to normal, and any such considerations are secondary to the crisis at hand.
When that time comes, more people will be alive — including the brave women and men giving their all in medical facilities to keep us safe — because the industry as a whole kicked in to help.
Do it today. Do it now. Lives hang in the balance.