DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. is expanding its unexpected foray into medical-supply manufacturing to include production of respirators, face masks and reusable gowns made from airbag material. It also is helping to increase production of collection kits used to test patients for COVID-19.
The automaker said it has started making face masks at a transmission plant in Sterling Heights, Mich., and will begin assembling respirators Tuesday near its Mustang plant in Flat Rock, Mich. Ford initially will pay about 120 UAW-represented workers who have volunteered for the assignments and expects to add 50 more workers as production of the face masks increases.
Ford also is working with airbag supplier Joyson Safety Systems to make reusable gowns for health care workers and helping Thermo Fisher Scientific increase production of COVID-19 test collection kits. Joyson expects to cut and sew 100,000 gowns a week starting next week, for a total of 1.3 million gowns by July 4.
The gowns use a…