BYD Co., the Chinese electric-carmaker backed by Warren Buffett, said it is now the world’s biggest face-mask maker after starting production less than a month ago to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
The company can make 5 million masks a day and is further expanding capacity, it said Friday in a statement. Founder Wang Chuanfu led a team of 3,000 engineers to build production lines from scratch using 90% in-house components. BYD didn’t specify what type of masks it makes.
Demand for masks and hand sanitizer skyrocketed as the virus broke out, creating shortages and prompting industrial companies to alter and build new production lines. China, the world’s biggest mask producer, boosted manufacturing to 54.8 million units a day as of Feb. 22, about 2.8 times of that on Feb. 1, according to the National Development and Reform Commission.
It wasn’t immediately clear how BYD’s production numbers compare with others in the industry. For example, 3M Co. has said it’s ramping up production and that it makes millions of respirators a month but hasn’t provided specific tallies.
Wang, who founded BYD as a mobile-phone battery maker in 1995, has built up a diversified business that spans from electric vehicles, EV batteries, monorail development, and semiconductors to now protective supplies such as face masks and disinfectants.
Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., petroleum giant Sinopec and iPhone assembler Foxconn are among those now producing masks. The quick switch from one product to another underscores China’s strength as a manufacturing powerhouse and highlights the urgency with which companies are trying to stop the deadly virus from paralyzing operations.