Currently reading: Government to ask UK manufacturers to build ventilators
Firms including Ford, Honda and JCB could be asked to repurpose their British factories to support the NHS

UK automotive manufacturing firms could be asked to produce ventilators for the NHS, as the health service’s resources are put under heavy strain due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Reports suggest Prime Minister Boris Johnson will speak today (16 March) to engineering firms and vehicle manufacturers, including Ford, Honda, Rolls-Royce and JCB, to discuss whether their production lines could be used to build medical equipment. At present, the NHS is said to have only around 5000 ventilators at its disposal. 

A Ford spokesperson confirmed that the firm had been approached by the government, and said: “we want to help where we can in the current situation and we have been approached on this specific matter and are currently in discussion." The firm currently produces vehicle parts at Bridgend and Dagenham. 

Meanwhile, Honda said: “We have been contacted by government about the feasibility of Honda supporting the manufacture of additional ventilators.” The firm’s Swindon plant currently produces the Honda Civic hatchback, but according to the Financial Times, discussions with the NHS regarded whether there is room for new, bespoke medical equipment lines, rather than existing tooling being repurposed. 

Toyota said it has not been contacted directly, but a company representative said the firm would be "more than willing" to investigate how it could be of assistance. 

Although Rolls-Royce could be contacted, it's not clear whether the government is targeting the Derbyshire aerospace facility or the Goodwood factory that produces Rolls-Royce-badged cars including the Phantom Rolls-Royce Phantom, Rolls-Royce Dawn, Rolls-Royce Wraith, Rolls-Royce Cullinan and Rolls-Royce Ghost luxury cars. A company spokesperson told Autocar that the firm has not yet been approached by the government. 

A Downing Street statement said: “Preparing for the spread of the coronavirus outbreak is a national priority and we're calling on the manufacturing industry and all those with relevant expertise who might be able to help to come together to help the country tackle this national crisis.

"We need to step up production of vital equipment such as ventilators so that we can all help the most vulnerable, and we need businesses to come to us and help in this national effort."

Anthony Bamford, chairman of Staffordshire-based JCB, said: “We have been approached by the Prime Minister to see if we can help with the production of ventilators. We have research and engineering teams actively looking at the request at the moment.

“It’s unclear as yet if we can assist, but as a British company, we will do whatever we can to help during the unprecedented times our country is facing.”

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The global automotive industry has already been profoundly impacted by the rapid spread of the coronavirus disease, with firms including FCA, Ferrari and Lamborghini forced to temporarily close their primary production facilities to protect workers, suppliers and customers. 

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Lamborghini closes Italian factory due to coronavirus

Felix Page

Felix Page
Title: News and features editor

Felix is Autocar's news editor, responsible for leading the brand's agenda-shaping coverage across all facets of the global automotive industry - both in print and online.

He has interviewed the most powerful and widely respected people in motoring, covered the reveals and launches of today's most important cars, and broken some of the biggest automotive stories of the last few years. 

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scotty5 16 March 2020

Cluless right enough

Clueless, all those armchair experts who disagree with any article that's wriiten on these pages. Appparently they're now expert in how to build ventilators.

I wish someone would isolate these idiots for 12 weeks from commenting on subjects they clearly know nothing about, but feel the need to share their expert opinion with the rest of the world.

If only you lot were part of Cobra, we could have this mess cleared up in a matter of days.

Chris C 16 March 2020


Just proves that Bojo and his mates don't understand modern manufacturing systems, procedures and supply/manufacturing chains. Far better to work with smaller companies who can react more quickly by thinking laterally on component design/manufacturing/sourcing and are not hidebound by cumbersome procedures and ERP systems, etc. Perhaps they ought to look at how things worked when suppliers got involved with military Urgent Operational Requirements in the Iraq war.

cdp 16 March 2020

F1 teams and defence

I bet the f1 teams and defence manufacturers could prove useful. Marshalls had an update for the Vulcan in a matter of weeks. 

the contract electronics firms switch between different product lines in hours and can provide all sorts of qa . The ventilators need to be functional rather than leading edge.