Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Ford Southern Africa has begun making face shields at its Silverton vehicle assembly plant in Tshwane for medical staff and other essential personnel fighting to curb the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ford, which said previously it had no plans to produce medical equipment, suspended vehicle production at Silverton just under two weeks ago, at the start of the national lockdown.

The company had already announced a temporary shutdown because of collapsing demand in export markets which account for more than half of Silverton’s production.

“With SA on lockdown and our plant not operating at the moment, we felt it was essential to use our manufacturing capacity and expertise to contribute to efforts to contain Covid-19,” said Ford operations head Ockert Berry.

Ford has started producing a first batch of 57,000 face shields, which protect the wearer’s eyes, nose and mouth. It hopes eventually to manufacture at least 500,000. To do this, however, it says it will need support from components suppliers and other partners.

Volkswagen SA said last week it also hoped to produce face shields.

Renai Moothilal, director of the National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers, says several member companies are part of a project to produce medical ventilators, working with partners that include the Industrial Development Corporation, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and medical experts.

“More than 20 members are directly involved or on standby to aid production. High-volume production, assuming all approvals fall into place, can possibly happen within a month,” said Moothilal.