Maruti Suzuki may join the war against coronavirus in the days to come and is exploring the best manner in which it can facilitate the production of key medical equipment required by front line health officials in India.
Speaking to HT Auto, RC Bhargava, Chairman at Maruti Suzuki India Limited, said that he had met government representatives who had asked auto makers to consider the possibility of manufacturing medical equipment like ventilators. "The government representatives met with a number of (automobile) companies regarding whether they can make ventilators. That includes Maruti. And we are now looking into it, we have been looking into it for the last two days and may be by Saturday (March 28), we can say something more definite about what we can or can't do," he said.
Bhargava said that a variety of aspects need to be looked into before arriving at a decision. "A ventilator is very different from automobiles, so we have to consider a whole lot of things before any decision," he said.
Similar moves have been seen in countries like the UK and the United States where major car makers including GM, Ford and Tesla have been asked to help with manufacturing of medical equipment. The process, however, is as complex in the UK and US as it would be anywhere else in the world, including India. "It is happening the world over. (But) factories won't be transformed. Factories for cars are not at all appropriate for a ventilator, so that, I think, is not in the equation," Bhargava said, adding that existing manufacturers already making ventilators in India are comparatively small and these could possibly be provided assistance in the best possible manner. "A ventilator is a critical item and help to someone who has the know-how is important."
Maruti Suzuki is the country's largest car maker and has been a dominant player in the Indian automobile space for decades. There is little wonder then that it could end up playing a crucial role if automobile companies do indeed join the battle against coronavirus. And it may not be the only one doing so.
Pawan Goenka, MD at Mahindra and Mahindra, posted a series of tweets on Thursday confirming that his company is exploring the best possible ways to manufacture ventilators. "2 pronged approach. At one end, we along with two large PSUs are working with an existing manufacturer of high spec ventilators to help them to simplify design and scale up capacity. Our engineering team is right now with them working on it," he wrote. "At other end we are working on an automated version of the Bag Valve Mask ventilator (commonly known as Ambu bag). We hope to have a proto ready in 3 days for approval. Once proven this design will be made available to all for manufacturing."
At a time when almost every OEM has temporarily suspended production at its manufacturing facilities in line with the national lock down, such endeavours, if they do come to fruition, could be a massive shot in the arm for India's health-related infrastructure and in the country's battle against the coronavirus. At the time of publishing this report, there were 646 confirmed cases across the country.