GM, Ford Could Shift Production to Make Ventilators During Coronavirus Crisis

WASHINGTON (Detroit Free Press) -

Detroit automakers are talking to the Trump administration about potentially shifting production to make breathing ventilators, with demand expected to outstrip capacity at hospitals because of the coronavirus.

Ford Motor Co. confirmed for the Free Press that it has been in “preliminary discussions” with the U.S. and British governments about making medical equipment if necessary.

It comes as Detroit’s automakers are announcing a shutdown of U.S. plants in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

“As America’s largest producer of vehicles and top employer of autoworkers, Ford stands ready to help the administration in any way we can, including the possibility of producing ventilators and other equipment,” the company said in a prepared statement. “It’s vital that we all pull together to help the country weather this crisis and come out the other side stronger than ever.” Meanwhile, General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra has also apparently spoken to advisers to President Donald Trump about the possibility of shifting resources to make ventilators, an especially important tool in treating the virus since it strikes the victims’ respiratory system.

Speaking to Fox News on Wednesday, Larry Kudlow, an economic adviser to President Trump, said he had spoken to auto executives about the decision to shut down and said that one of them, presumably Barra, had told him “while the men and women may be off for two weeks due to the virus, she’s going to try to call them back so they can produce ventilators.”

“They might even ask them to do it on a voluntary basis,” Kudlow continued.

GM confirmed in a statement sent out to several media organizations that Barra had spoken to the administration. The company said, “GM is working to help find solutions for the nation during this difficult time and has offered to help, and we are already studying how we can potentially support production of medical equipment like ventilators.”