Coronavirus and the car world: Jaguar Land Rover develops visors

3 April 2020 - autocar

Coronavirus and the car world: Jaguar Land Rover develops visors

How Covid-19 is affecting the car world: Toyota and Vauxhall aid key workers, car firms expanding into ventilator and face mask production

The rapid global spread of the coronavirus is having a major impact on all aspects of society, including the car industry.

Production facilities are being closed around the world, the dramatic stock market falls has hit the value of virtually every car firm, vehicle sales are dropping dramatically and most major motorsport events have been cancelled.

This is Autocar’s round-up of how the car world is being impacted, which will be updated regularly with information and links to more in-depth stories.

Friday 3 April: Jaguar Land Rover's visors, more help for NHS workers

● Jaguar Land Rover has begun production of reusable NHS-approved protective visors, with the goal of eventually producing 5000 of the units a week.

The new visor has been designed at the Advanced Production Creation Centre in Garden in consultation with NHS staff, with Jaguar Land Rover initially aiming to produce 1300 units per week using its prototype build operations. It will then work with other companies, including Pro2Pro in Telford to further increase production.

The visors has been tested by staff at the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust. The device is designed to be easily dismantled and cleaned so that it can be used again, helping to combat equipment shortages.

Jaguar Land Rover intends to make the open source CAD design files available to other manufacturers, so they can print further visors.

Toyota and Lexus are offering free roadside assistance to all key workers who drive one of their cars or vans, regardless of its age. The firms have teamed with the AA for the initiative, which will be available until further notice.

Meanwhile, the Japanese firms have given owners of their new or recently bought vehicles three extra months of roadside assistance cover free.

Peugeot, Citroën and DS will join fellow PSA Group brand Vauxhall (see below) in offering its roadside assistance programme to all NHS workers who drive one of their vehicles, regardless of age. The brands say they have also increased goodwill payments to NHS workers whose vehicles are no longer within warranty.

Ford UK has taken several steps to aid healthcare workers, local authorities, charities and volunteers, including loaning around 170 of its vehicles to support transport efforts.

It has also donated personal protective equipment (PPE) from its plants to local healthcare authorities, with its Bridgend engine plant donating 13,500 pairs of gloves, 150 disposable safety suit and a large stock of protective glasses. Meanwhile, Ford's Dunton plant is currently trialling the fabrication of protective face shields.

Ford has also confimed it will extend the suspension of vehicle and engine production at most of its European manufacturing sites until at least 4 May. The firm initially halted work at the plants on 17 March.

Thursday 2 April: Vauxhall supports NHS workers

Nissan has extended the production halt at its Sunderland plant "throughout April". Production has been suspended at the factory since 17 March, and Nissan says the majority of employees have been furloughed under the UK government scheme.

The Japanese firm has also suspended production at its Spanish plants, introducing 'Force Majeure' temporary lay off measures at its sites in Cataluny and Cantabria.

In a statement, Nissan said it was "grateful for the financial assistance offered by national governments to support our 15,000 direct employees in Europe, our partner companies and suppliers."

● Vauxhall has extended its Roadside Assistance programme, usually reserved for owners of new cars, to all Vauxhall-driving NHS workers.

The move means NHS staff can call the manufacturer in the event of a breakdown, be it at home or on the road, and have their car repaired or recovered to an approved Vauxhall workshop. The offer is extended to all Vauxhalls, regardless of age, mileage and service history.

● Williams Advanced Engineering is one of a number of car firms part of a consortium helping to re-engineer an existing ventilator design in response to the Ventilator Challenge UK project.

The firm, which was formed by the Williams F1 team to apply technology it had developed in other industries, is working with firms including McLaren, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Siemens and BAR Systems to re-engineer a Smiths Group ParaPAC300 ventilator design in order to rapidly manufacture 5000 units for the NHS. More than 50 WAE staff members have been involved in the project, with the firm developing 3D CAD modelling, re-engineering test equipment and working on rapid prototype development.

● Skoda is helping charities and volunteers in the Czech Republic by giving them free access to more than 200 vehicles and 150 electric scooters used by its HoppyGo car sharing platform. The firm is also working with the Czech Technical University in Prague to develop a 3D printing process to produce ventilators.

● This weekend should have been the inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix, so the sport's bosses are staging a second F1 Esport Virtual Grand Prix. Five current F1 drivers have signed up so far: Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, Alex Albon, George Russell and Nicholas Latifi.

Those five will be joined by an assortment of random guest stars including F1 race winner Johnny Herbert (who led the first Virtual GP after massively cutting the first turn) and cricket star Ben Stokes. With the new Hanoi circuit not featured in the F1 2019 game, this weekend's event will be staged on the Albert Park circuit used for the Australian GP. The event starts at 2000hrs on Sunday, with coverage on Sky Sports F1.

Wednesday 1 April: Seat's windscreen wiper-powered ventilator

● Seat is the latest car brand to start producing ventilators, having started producing units at its Martorell factory near Barcelona for local healthcare authorities.

The automated ventilators were designed by a team of engineers, and are now undergoing final testing before approval is given for mass production. The ventilators use a number of parts adapted from Seat cars, including windscreen wiper motors, gearbox shafts and printed gears. 150 employees will produce them.

● Volkswagen has extended the production suspension at its German factories by five days, saying the decision is primarily due to the sharp fall in demand for new cars and supply chain issues.

The firm is now intending to resume production at its car and components plants on 19 April, and says it is working on a number of measures to ensure the health and safety of staff.

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