This time, they’ll be shifting gears and 'exploring ways to help' amid the pandemic
US carmakers – which have been forced to shut down factories due to the coronavirus pandemic – may soon find themselves calling workers back to the plant.
This time, they’ll be shifting gears and producing medical equipment.
General Motors, Tesla and Ford have been given the green light by US President Donald Trump to manufacture equipment such as ventilators to aid patients stricken with COVID-19.
“Go for it auto execs, [let’s] see how good you are?” Trump tweeted.
Ford, General Motors and Tesla are being given the go ahead to make ventilators and other metal products, FAST! @fema Go for it auto execs, lets see how good you are? @RepMarkMeadows @GOPLeader @senatemajldr— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2020
COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease that can progress to acute respiratory distress syndrome and pneumonia. The exponential rise in the number of cases in the US and around the world has raised concerns over a possible shortage of machines built to support breathing and other vital organ functions, most especially among critically ill patients.
Nearly a million Americans will need to rely on breathing apparatuses should they contract COVID-19, estimates from the American Hospital Association indicate.
In New York, the epicentre of the outbreak in North America, Governor Andrew Cuomo called on the federal government to centralise the acquisition of medical supplies so as to prevent states from competing over limited resources.
‘Exploring ways to help’
GM is collaborating with US medical device maker Ventec Life Systems to ramp up production of ventilators. From 150 units produced each month, Ventec has set a target of manufacturing 1,000 monthly in the next 90 days and will depend on GM’s infrastructure and resources to bolster its capacity, The Verge reported.
But GM’s role will likely extend beyond ventilator production. CEO Mary Barra said the carmaker “will continue to explore ways to help in this time of crisis”.
Last week, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk also promised to help produce ventilators “if there is a shortage”. In a subsequent reply on Twitter, Musk clarified: “Ventilators are not difficult, but cannot be produced instantly.”
Tesla makes cars with sophisticated hvac systems. SpaceX makes spacecraft with life support systems. Ventilators are not difficult, but cannot be produced instantly. Which hospitals have these shortages you speak of right now?— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 19, 2020
Meanwhile, Ford also confirmed it is in talks with the US and UK governments and “looking into the feasibility” of manufacturing medical equipment, possibly including ventilators.
“It’s vital that we all pull together to help the country weather this crisis and come out the other side stronger than ever,” Ford spokesperson Rachel McCleery told TechCrunch.
Alex Azar, US secretary of health and human services, believes carmakers like GM, Ford and Tesla can “more easily repurpose production lines” to help increase medical supplies.