Project Apollo is what Ford is calling its partnership with 3M and General Electric to address the shortage of respirators and ventilators during the COVID-19 pandemic. Parts intended for pickup trucks and other cars will be used to build more ventilators and respirators. The project is named after the 1970 emergency mission that brought home the Apollo 13 astronauts after their spacecraft malfunctioned.
But this isn’t the first time the U.S. auto industry has been used to help in an emergency.
Longtime auto industry journalist Micheline Maynard has been writing about this for the Curbing Cars newsletter on Substack. She says that in 1940, American industry began retooling for battle, even before the U.S. entered World War II. And the lend-lease program gave Britain the military equipment it needed to fight that same war.
“In 1940, Britain was getting pounded by the Nazis,” Maynard says. “We could not give them direct aid because we were not yet in the war, and there was still an isolationist movement in the United States.”
To convince Americans that lend-lease was a good idea, and that industry should focus on Britain’s war effort, President Franklin Roosevelt spoke to the nation in December 1940. It was known as the “Arsenal of Democracy” speech.
The ramp-up in military production meant the U.S. was preparing for war a full year before Pearl Harbor.
The current efforts at Ford and elsewhere are focused on the shortage of medical equipment needed to fight COVID-19.
What you’ll hear in this segment:
– What work General Motors is doing in ventilator development
– How auto companies are trying to navigate national politics during the pandemic
Written by Shelly Brisbin.