The German government asked domestic automakers to consider producing medical equipment such as masks or ventilators to help fight the rapidly spreading coronavirus.
The request forms part of wider efforts by authorities to tap engineering and production resources and tackle severe supply bottlenecks in critical medical equipment, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the talks are not public.
“This is a company decision. Companies have to take the decision themselves,” said a spokesperson for the country’s economy ministry.
VW said on Friday that it had assembled a task force to see how it can use 3-D printing to help manufacture hospital ventilators and other life-saving equipment. While medical equipment was a new venture for the company, it could start production as soon as it receives the necessary information, a VW spokesman said.
VW has more than 125 industrial 3-D printers that have so far been mainly used to build components for vehicle prototypes, the spokesman added.
VW CEO Herbert Diess said Saturday the automaker started building up production capacity for protective masks in China, and is supporting German authorities with temperature measuring devices, masks, disinfectants and diagnostic equipment.
Daimler has received requests from authorities and is currently exploring options, a spokesman said on Sunday.
VW and Daimler have also agreed to donate more than 300,000 protective masks from their existing resources to health organizations.
General Motors is working with Ventec Life Systems to enable the medical device maker to leverage the U.S. automaker's logistics and expertise to build more ventilators. GM has said it could use some excess factory space to build hospital ventilators
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who initially downplayed the risks posed by the virus, tweeted Saturday that he had talked with Medtronic about making ventilators.
Medtronic said earlier in the week it will more than double its capacity to make and supply ventilators to fight the global pandemic, with the machines playing a critical role in assisting patients with respiratory functions.
Reuters contributed to this report