Business Data Journalist

Ford and General Motors, the two largest vehicle manufacturers in the United States, have pivoted to medical equipment production in a wartime-like effort against COVID-19. As a result, there’s more positive sentiment around these brands than at any other time in the past year, according to YouGov BrandIndex data.

Since Ford announced on March 24 it was partnering with 3M and GE Healthcare to help produce medical equipment, its Buzz score rose by 19 percent as of April 7.

A brand’s Buzz score is calculated by asking Americans every day if they’ve heard anything positive or negative about a brand in the past two weeks — subtracting the percentage of negative responses from the percentage of positive responses.

Ford and 3M have teamed up to manufacture a newly designed powered air-purifying respirators. Ford is also working with GE Healthcare to produce what it calls a “simplified version” of GE’s existing ventilator system. At the same time, Ford announced it will produce face shields and certain components for personal protective equipment.

“At Ford, we feel a deep obligation to step up and contribute in times of need, just as we always have through the 117-year history of our company,” Bill Ford, Ford’s executive chairman, said in a statement.

Just days later, on March 27, General Motors announced a partnership with Ventec Life Systems to help produce and supply ventilators surgical face masks to front-line workers.

“We are proud to stand with other American companies and our skilled employees to meet the needs of this global pandemic,” said Mary Barra, GM chairman and CEO.

General Motors also saw a hike in its Buzz score. Since its efforts were announced, GM’s Buzz score rose by 50 percent as of April 7.

The extent of this massive reallocation of resources and retooling of manufacturing processes hasn’t been seen since the Second World War. Vehicle manufactures are not alone. Clothing brands, such as the Gap and Eddie Bauer are making face masks and alcohol brands, such as Anheuser-Busch and Tito's, are making hand sanitizer.

According to YouGov Direct data, a majority (60%) of Americans are more likely to purchase from a company that has aided in the COVID-19 pandemic. Roughly a third (34%) of Americcans say they are neither more nor less likely.

Methodology: BrandIndex Buzz score is based on an average daily sample size of 1,175 for Ford and 1,175 for General Motors on a one-week moving average. YouGov Direct data is based on 1,925 interviews conducted through the YouGov Direct app on April 7, 2020.

Image: The Ford Motor Company

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