By: FEMI OWOEYE
No nation, including China expected a pandemic. But it came. It caught the entire human race unaware.
However, there is a major lesson to learn. The fact that, at a time like this, unusual and unexpected gains and helps could come from a least expected sector. As the pandemic ravaged even through strongest nations on earth, none, no nation could boast of adequate equipment.
Italy, United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Russia, among others responded to the COVID – 19 invasions, just like a nation that suffered invasion, when it has inadequate weapon.
But amidst this development, Automobile industries, more than most other sectors, are coming to the rescue in the area of weapons (equipments) that are badly needed to counter-attack the fire power of Corona Virus.
Most expensive anti-COVID-19 weapons are ventilators. A number of auto companies that shut down automotive production simply converted their plants to manufacturing of Ventilators and other urgently needed life-saving products.
For instance, Ferrari did not donate millions of dollars. Towards supporting frontline health workers treating Corona Virus, it converted and use part of its Maranello plant for production of respiratory valves and fittings for protective masks.
It would interest you to know that the department where cars prototypes are usually built is the section it is using for production of these thermoplastic components, using additive manufacturing technology.
Mclaren is another example. Responding to dearth of necessary medical equipments towards tackling the pandemic, the auto maker, with McLaren Racing and Mclaren Applied (Data and Electronics) joined Ventilation challenge UK Consortium to help produce more medical ventilators.
Employing their unique blend of expertise in design, rapid prototyping, Electronics and Manufacturing, every McLaren company is taking part in supporting the production goal of ventilators to treat COVID-19 patients.
The company designed and crash-tested lightweight, bespoke trolleys on which the ventilators are fixed for use in clinical settings. Like Ferrari, these are being beuilt in the top secret McLaren Laboratory, where the next generation of supercar prototype are usually created.
Also in response to nationwide shortage of personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in United States (US), Kia Motors has converted part of its manufacturing plant in West Point, Georgia, for production of face shields, numbering 200,000 units per month.
Ford is another auto manufacturing giant, which, though closed auto manufacturing, has, for weeks, been making medical equipment in support of frontline health workers in its countries of operation.
While others are shunning out medical equipments, Rolls Royce choose to focus on an easy to overlook nutritious product-honey.
Like other auto makers in the United Kingdom, the luxury auto maker shut down automotive factories but, at a record level, it set in motion production of honey.
On the other side of the coin, Volkswagen is considering economic implication of continuous shut-down. While millions of workers are losing their jobs as a result of the shutdown occasioned by the pandemic, Volkswagen Group embarked on PCR (Polymerase Chain Reactions) Tests on its 15000 employees to allow them to return to work from April 27th 2020. PRC testing, which screens for SARS_COVID-2 virus, is one of the most reliable ways of identifying whether a person screened has contracted COVID-19.
One can go on and on. The world auto makers have been at the frontline fighting the pandemic world war, no doubt.
When COVID-19 battle is finally lost and won by humans, automotive manufacturers will surely be in the same hall of fame with other war heroes.
Had Nigerian past and present government showed political will in supporting development of the nation’s auto industry all these years, the nation would not have had to rely on outside help for necessary equipment needed to defend its territory against the terror of COVID-19.
Nigerian auto industry stakeholders deserve kudos. Despite the government neglect and uncertain operating environment made for them by present and past administrations, a number of them have patriotically, stationed themselves at the forefront of battling to secure the lives of over 200 million Nigerians.
War medal deserving Auto stakeholders include Stallion Group, which is donating foodstuffs to all COVID-19 hospitals in 774 Local governments across the country as well as supporting frontline health workers in the nation’s epic-centre, Lagos with staff buses, driver and fuel. The company vowed to do the foregoing for at least three months.
Toyota Nigeria Limited and Elizade Nigeria Limited, who jointly donated three brand new Toyota Hiace ambulances to the Lagos State government also deserve post-pandemic war medal.
Same goes for Massilia Motors, Nigeria’s representative of Mitsubishi brand. The compamy backed the fight with food items to 1000 families in Ijora, Lagos State.
To make the isolation centre in Lagos more conducive for the occupants, MANDILAS GROUP, Nigeria’s foremost auto distributing company and representative of Carrier air-conditioner, donated some units of air-conditioners to the National Centre for Disease Control, NCDC.
All the foregoing auto industry stakeholders, despite the nation’s unfriendly operating environment have recorded their names in the nation’s book of post-pandemic war heroes.
But how great would it have been, if the nation’s auto makers had been strong enough to manufacture ventilators, Personal Protective Equipments, testing kits among others. This is a lesson that the people in authority. And indeed, right now, it is not too late.
The nation’s Minister of Industry should go beyond rhetoric and follow up the final passage of the nation’s auto industry Development Bill (NAIDB) as he promised. This costs the nation nothing. Get it in place so that the Nigerian auto assemblers could plan for the post COVID-19 regime, with an assurance that the nation is ready for them and so they are ready to move to the next level.