General Motors and Ford Motor stated on Wednesday they were talking with White House officials about how they could support production of medical equipment such as ventilators that may be required to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
GM CEO Mary Barra talked with White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow about the issue after the automaker announced it will suspend North American production through March 30. Kudlow informed Fox News on Wednesday that he had talked to one automaker looking at producing ventilators.
GM spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan stated the automaker is collaborating to “help find solutions for the nation during this difficult period and has offered to help, and we are already studying how we can possibly support production of medical equipment like ventilators”.
Ford stated on Wednesday it is “ready to help the administration in any way we can, including the possibility of producing ventilators and other equipment. We have had initial discussions with the U.S. government and are looking into the feasibility”. Kudlow praised the idea of autoworkers working to produce medical equipment when plans were idled. “That’s the kind of can-do spirit that we are hearing and seeing,” Kudlow stated.
Both automakers could face significant obstacles before it could build a complex piece of medical equipment like a ventilator and it is not clear how long it would take them for doing so.
Countries across the world have raised concerns about possible shortages of the ventilators needed to treat critically ill patients affected with coronavirus. Running in the thousands of dollars each unit, ventilators are used for helping people with respiratory difficulties to breathe.
Previously this week, the UK asked Ford, Honda and Rolls Royce to help make health equipment including ventilators and stated it will also look at using hotels as hospitals.
During World War II, GM, Ford and other automakers retooled auto plants for creating tanks, planes and other military equipment and weapons, earning Detroit the nickname of the “Arsenal of Democracy.”
As the coronavirus spread throughout China in February, a number of companies in China including Apple Inc partner Foxconn and SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile, a joint venture automaker formed by GM and two Chinese partners, stated they had set up production lines for creating masks and medical clothing.