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Automakers have stepped up in the fight against COVID-19

From pivoting production to PPE and loaning fleets to volunteers, automakers have been key players through the pandemic

By Karen Kwan Wheels.ca

Dec 28, 2021 4 min. read

Article was updated 5 months ago

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“They saved lives. I can’t put it more plainly than that,” said Sulemaan Ahmed.

Ahmed, who is one of the founders of Conquer COVID-19, is referring to Volvo Cars Canada. The automaker gave the grassroots volunteer initiative a fleet of Volvo vehicles in March 2020. Volunteers have since used the vehicles to deliver PPE to hospitals, seniors’ residences and shelters in need. Within two days of initially approaching Ahmed, a fleet of vehicles (including passes for Highway 407) were ready at the Volvo Canada headquarters in Richmond Hill. Over the next six months, volunteers used the cars to make deliveries across the province and into Quebec, with gas and insurance covered by Volvo.

Ahmed himself made several deliveries, often with his teenage daughter, in a Volvo packed to the roof with boxes of masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.

By the time Conquer Covid-19 returned the 18 loaner cars to Volvo Cars Canada, they’d delivered three million pieces of PPE, made 464 deliveries (265 of those in the Volvos), and racked up more than 47,000 kilometres in the loaners.

[caption id="attachment_164383" align="alignnone" width="2560"]Volvo Processed with VSCO with a7 preset[/caption]

Natalie Kusendova, MPP of Mississauga Centre, also received two vehicles from Volvo Canada for her team at the constituency office to use during the height of the pandemic. However,  Kusendova had returned to her position as a registered nurse at Etobicoke General Hospital.

“There was a shortage of nurses and with so many people getting sick, my time was better utilized at hospital than sitting at office” she said.

With a new focus, Kusendova turned her office into a hub for distributing supplies.

“The two vehicles enabled my team — young professionals who don’t have cars — to deliver groceries and provide services to seniors in our riding, including filling prescriptions,” said Kusendova.

Volvo Canada isn’t the only automaker who pivoted to join the fight against COVID-19. By May 2020, General Motors Canada built a clean-room environment in their Oshawa facility. They then installed the equipment that enabled them to produce the 10 million face masks the Government of Canada contracted them to produce, which they fulfilled this April.  Over at Ford Canada’s Windsor operations, they went into production of face shields in April 2020. By repurposing their facilities, the automaker was able to produce more than 2.75 million face shields that were distributed to medical personnel and other essential frontline workers.

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Hyundai Canada, in the meanwhile, dedicated their COVID-19 efforts to continuing their support of youth across Canada. First, they made a $100,000 donation to BGC Canada (formerly the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada) emergency relief fund.

“In this very scary time that was very isolating, Hyundai wanted to make a difference,” said Rachael MacKenzie-Neill, vice-president of marketing and development at Hyundai Canada.

In addition to the donation, Hyundai furthered their commitment to BGC Canada with the lease of five Hyundai Santa Fe vehicles to help communities across Canada. One of these SUVs went to the BGC Toronto Kiwanis Club.

“For us, it was a real changemaker,” said Greg Gary, the club’s executive director. “The van we had was rusty and not safe. We didn’t have the resources to replace the van, and that’s when Hyundai stepped in and donated the Santa Fe,” he said.

With the Santa Fe, the club was able to deliver the materials kids needed for their virtual programs, including laptops. The Kiwanis Club was also able to transport masks and gift cards for groceries and meals to more than 100 families living in Moss Park, Regent Park, Cabbagetown and St. Jamestown.

“Over the summer, we were delivering up to 60 to 100 meals. These are kids who would be here after school — except we couldn’t have kids in the space — kids who otherwise wouldn’t eat that night,” said Marnie Smith, the club’s director of programs and services.

Besides getting kids meals and kits for their online programs, having the Hyundai Santa Fe has been a morale booster and has helped to elevate the image of the club, said Gary.

“It’s a beautiful vehicle, wrapped in our logo. It gives a positive message to the youth and speaks to our core values,” he said. “Our contract is until the spring, but we hope it’s extended.”

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