Canadian auto parts makers to make ventilators

Magna, Linamar and Martinrea auto parts companies to make ventilators and other medical equipment at their Canadian plants

March 28, 2020, 7:32 pm

The Magna Auto Parts facility in Newmarket, Ontario

The Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association, three auto parts makers and the government of Ontario are working together to switch production from parts to ventilators and other medical equipment in the companies' factories

Magna International, Linamar and Martinrea International reached an agreement with the province after meeting earlier this week, Magna spokeswoman Tracy Fuerst said.

The three projects the initiative will focus on are ventilators built by Thornhill Medical, O-Two Medical Technologies Inc. and General Motors and Ventec Life Systems, which partnered to build ventilators at a GM plant in Indiana.

Magna is supporting the initiative with components, logistics and purchasing, Fuerst said.

Auto Parts Manufacturers Association president Flavio Volpe said he was happy to see the projects move forward.

“There has been an unprecedented mobilization by government that is going to save lives. We are singularly focused on equipping the people who will do that promptly and confidently,” Volpe said.

Thornhill was one of the medical equipment makers singled out by the federal government last week as part of its plan to make ventilators in Canada to ensure there’s enough supply. It manufactures high-tech, portable ventilators, which were originally designed for military use.

O-Two also makes portable, transportable ventilators. It will be building the E700 model, a light weight ventilator with long battery life that provides ICU level care.

In a joint statement on Friday, GM and Ventec said they’re “working around the clock” to set up GM’s Kokomo facility to build critical care ventilators.

They’ve sourced more than 700 individual parts needed to build up to 200,000 ventilators.

The companies plan to deliver the first ventilators next month.

They will ramp up production to 10,000 ventilators per month with the ability to scale further based on U.S. government orders.

About 1,000 GM workers will return to the plant to build the ventilators. GM is providing its resources at cost.

Almost 140,000 Canadians have now been tested for COVID-19, according to Dr. Howard Njoo, the country’s deputy chief public health officer.

Some labs have reported a testing backlog due to lack of supplies needed for the tests.

Growing demand on health services prompted Ontario’s nurses to call for more medical equipment to deal with COVID-19.

“Health organizations, across all sectors, are reporting shortages of personal protective equipment,” the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario said in a statement.

“The available ventilators, required to save lives during the pandemic — including the 300 additional ones Ontario has ordered — vastly underestimate the real need under a worst-case scenario.”