By Manny Manriquez, General Director
The coronavirus has taken an immense toll throughout the United States and the world around us. The effects are felt within every facet of our society, and we feel the awesome weight of this moment in time. Much like the broader society, the automotive industry has never experienced a phenomenon quite like the coronavirus pandemic. We have faced supply shocks brought on by natural disasters and international trade tensions, and we have seen production downturns as a result of economic struggles, but this is the first time that modern society – and, by extension, our industry – has had to contend with a problem of such far-reaching proportions. By late March of this year, the entire U.S. auto industry halted production, including all 24 of JAMA members’ U.S. manufacturing plants. Production floors across the country went dark as America, and the entire world, struggled with the devastating impacts of the pandemic. Now the auto industry and the U.S. economy are in a recovery phase, but the path forward remains challenging.
One of the industry’s ongoing challenges has been determining how to ensure the health and safety of employees. Amid the onset of the pandemic, I was struck by the clarity of our members’ response. There is no question employee health and safety are always the most important priorities for our members. Since the early days of the crisis, the American auto industry worked tirelessly to develop and implement new protocols, standards, and practices designed to enable the safe and efficient restart of production.
Looking back at our industry’s response to the pandemic itself, we see that automakers of all origins have supported relief efforts to address the crisis. We are particularly proud of the work that Japanese-brand automakers have done to produce and donate personal protective equipment (PPE). This critically important work is in addition to numerous community-based relief programs and other activities geared towards seeing our members’ employees, customers, and communities through to the other side of this crisis.
Below is a small sample of our members’ efforts to support communities across America:
- Honda delivered 10 minivans to the City of Detroit that were specially outfitted to transport people potentially infected with COVID-19, as well as healthcare workers. Honda also produced face shields for healthcare workers and teamed up with Dynaflo Inc. to produce and deliver diaphragm compressors, a critical component for ventilators.
- Mazda provided free standard oil changes and enhanced cleaning services for U.S. healthcare workers at participating dealers nationwide. This program, called Essential Car Care, ran from mid-April through early June. This service was not limited to Mazda owners and was offered to many makes and models from other automakers.
- Mitsubishi announced that they were reimbursing their dealer partners for 100% of their expenses related to COVID-19 supplies and support.
- Nissan printed headbands and assembling protective face shields for local healthcare workers at their facilities in Tennessee, Michigan, and Mississippi. Nissan also donated around 100 windshield-wiper motors to a Nashville team, led by Vanderbilt University, that is designing and building open-source ventilators.
- Subaru, along with support from two regional independent distributors, Subaru of New England and Subaru Distributors Corp., announced its commitment to supporting people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by helping to provide 50 million meals to Feeding America.
- Toyota committed to producing and donating commercial-grade face shields to approximately 73 organizations in 18 states. Toyota also gave vehicles and grants to four nonprofits in Washtenaw County in Michigan that are serving the area’s most vulnerable community members, including veterans, people with disabilities and homebound seniors.
These activities, along with the various other efforts Japanese-brand automakers have been involved in for decades, further illustrate our commitment to supporting local communities and our dedication to being good corporate citizens. And today we strongly believe that, in order to face a future filled with uncertainty, we must all work together and support each other through these difficult times. This is an ethos that we can all take to heart.
[Note: to view a more detailed list of our members’ coronavirus-related community support activities, click here]