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Volkswagen Group steps up fight against COVID-19

Volkswagen Group answers global calls for more help fighting against COVID-19

6 Apr 2020

CAR brands belonging to the Volkswagen Group have stepped up in the fight against COVID-19 with VW, Skoda, Seat and Lamborghini all committing to the production of essential medical equipment including face masks, face shields, ventilators and respirators while Audi has donated €5 million ($A8.98 million) to various international heath bodies and organisations.


One of the biggest operations being undertaken by the group as a whole is the 3D printing of face shield holders destined for Spain – the second hardest hit country after the United States.


Volkswagen Passenger Cars, Volkswagen Group Components and Volkswagen Motorsport along with fellow Group members Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, MAN Truck and Bus and Porsche have all leveraged their 3D printing facilities for the project with the holders in question set to be flown to Spain this week by Airbus, one of the key players behind the initiative.


Volkswagen Group head of production Gerd Walker said his teams were working as fast as possible with all relevant workers wearing gloves and face masks to prevent contamination of the components.


At a more local level, VW Navarra (Spain) has already presented more than 1000 completed face shields to the Spanish government after starting their own production efforts last week while VW Germany has already donated more than 100,000 face masks to the German government.


In the Czech Republic, Skoda has not bothered with simple or small contributions, instead opting to launch a full-on war against the spread of COVID-19, having donated more than 200 vehicles to the cause, providing direct financial aid to social services and people in need as well as developing reusable FFP3 respirators.


Featuring a removable and replaceable filter, Skoda developed a whole new 3D printing process in order to produce the new ventilators at its Cesana prototype facility in collaboration with the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics (CIIRC).


Some 60 units are being produced each day at the Cesana site before being delivered to the Czech Ministry of Health for distribution to hospitals and other healthcare facilities.


“Not only do these masks boast the highest level of protection but thanks to their replaceable filter, they can also be reused,” the brand said via a statement.


“The project is also supported by Czech universities and private companies that have similar printers, leading to a total daily output of several hundred masks.”


Things are much the same in Spain at Seat’s Martorell plant where the production of the Leon hatchback have all but stopped as 150 workers produce automated ventilators with leveraged components from the Leon’s parts bin.


With the guidance of the Spanish healthcare system, 13 prototypes were designed and developed by Seat with the final version now having been in production for a week as it gains the final tick of approval from the relevant authorities.


“The aim was to make ventilators of the highest quality, and the result is the OxyGEN,” Seat said via a statement.


According to engineers, the key leveraged components used in the OxyGEN were the gears, gearbox shafts and adapted motor of a windscreen wiper with more than 80 electronic and mechanical components.


“The motivation of everyone participating in this project is that with our know-how we can mass-produce equipment that will save lives,” Martorell engineer Nicolas Mora said.


Research and development specialist Francesca Sabaté added that knowing the staff have tried to help save lives made all the work worthwhile.


Across the Mediterranean in Italy, supercar maker Lamborghini announced last week that it had turned its hand to producing surgical masks and protective plexiglass face shields for staff at the Sant’Orsola-Malpighi Hospital in Bologna.


Lamborghini says it is aiming to produce 1000 masks and 200 face shields per day once production is in full swing, with the former being 3D printed by the printers within the carbon-fibre production plant.


Lamborghini chairman and CEO Stefano Domenicali said a concrete contribution and unity were needed in this time of emergency.


“The S. Orsola-Malpighi Hospital is an institution with which we have had a collaborative relationship for years, through both professional consultancy in promoting programs to protect our workers’ health, and in research projects,” he said.


“We will win this battle together by working in union, supporting those who are at the forefront of fighting this pandemic every day.”


While Audi has been helping VW with the production of the aforementioned face shield holders, the prestige brand has also been doing its own thing in providing more than €5 million ($A8.98 million) in emergency aid both nationally and internationally.


Under the #AudiTogether title, the funds will be used for a variety of causes and purposes including supplying extra medical equipment to hospitals and healthcare centres, cash donations directly to hospitals as well as organising an exclusive charity concert slated for April 14 which is set to be streamed globally via Facebook, YouTube and the Audi Media website.


According to Audi management board chairman Markus Duesmann, “the corona pandemic presents extreme challenges for all of us worldwide – for us as a company and for society as a whole”.


“I would also like to thank all those people who are maintaining business operations at our worldwide sites,” he said.


The Volkswagen Group is one of many car manufacturers/ bodies turning their hands to producing medical supplies, with others including Ford, PSA, Jaguar Land Rover, Walkinshaw, HSV, Premcar, Nissan and Tesla as well as all seven UK-based Formula One teams.


The current number of confirmed coronavirus cases stood at 1,274,967 as of 5pm today (April 6), including 69,501 deaths and 265,883 recoveries.

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