While Elon Musk has already volunteered, several governments around the world are pressuring automakers to help them deal with the fan shortage.
The idea is that with their state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities and production capacity, automakers could retool – or even involve their design departments – to produce new fan designs, manufacture existing designs. or provide parts support. And since automakers around the world are shutting down vehicle production, they certainly have the capacity.
In Italy, the government is in talks with Fiat Chrysler and Ferrari, the latter of which is headquartered in Maranello, near an existing fan factory; the US government is in talks with Ford and General Motors; and in the UK, supercar maker McLaren “is looking to design a simple version of a fan,” according to Reuters, while Nissan runs a separate business there “to support existing fan producers.”
On paper at least, involving the automakers seems like a great idea, echoing the role that the automakers played during World War II, when they made tanks and military vehicles for their respective governments. But one obstacle will be manufacturing to medical standards, and the other, unfortunately, could be intellectual property. The viability of the plan “depends on the know-how that existing manufacturers (of fans) are willing to share on the design of such a machine,” said René-Christopher Wollmann, program and platform director of the Pininfarina design workshop. Reuters. “Another bottleneck will be the assembly of such machines under conditions suitable for the medical industry.”
It seems obvious to us that the “precision milling and 3D printing techniques” available to car manufacturers, as well as their production capacity “could help manufacture complex parts”, as Wollmann points out. And the auto industry is not alone in these capabilities; Airbus is also committed, and has set an ambitious deadline:
“The goal is for there to be a prototype (fan) in two weeks and for production to start in four weeks,” said a person familiar with the situation at the company.
By the way, I highly recommend anyone interested in this topic to read Arthur Herman’s excellent “Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II”. It’s a fascinating look at how government can bring together a handful of brilliant and powerful people and organizations and get them to work together for the common good.