March 27, 2020 12:15 PM, EDT

Toyota Shifts Factories to Face Shields, Will Help Device Makers

Toyota logo at the company's headquarters in Toyota City, Japan.(Akio Kon/Bloomberg News)

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Toyota Motor Corp.’s idled manufacturing facilities in the U.S. will make much-needed face shields and masks, and the Japanese automaker is closing in on deals with medical-device makers to help them boost production.

The carmaker said March 27 it will start mass production of face shields early next week to supply hospitals near its plants in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Texas. Toyota also said it is finalizing pacts with at least two companies to make breathing ventilators and respirator hoods, and it’s looking for partners to make protective masks. The company on Thursday extended its shutdown of North American factories for two weeks.

“With our plants idled and our dealers focused on servicing customers, we are eager to contribute our expertise and know-how in order to help quickly bring to market the medical supplies and equipment needed to combat the COVID crisis,” Ted Ogawa, Toyota’s newly appointed head of North American operations, said in a statement. “Our message to the medical equipment community is we are here to help, please utilize our expertise.”

The company is the latest carmaker in the U.S. to provide its manufacturing expertise to help stop the outbreak. Ford Motor Co. has paired with General Electric Co. and 3M Co. to make medical equipment, and General Motors Co. is trying to make ventilators at a plant in Indiana.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV also aims to make 1 million masks a month at a plant in China to supply to U.S. health workers. Tesla Inc. has donated masks and ventilators and held talks with Medtronic Plc on helping them boost production.

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