GM Turns Focus From Producing Cars To Creating Lifesaving Equipment
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

As the United States approaches 200,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, American car manufacturer General Motors is looking to assist with the worsening crisis. According to the Wall Street Journal, the auto supplier has teamed up with ventilator partner Ventec Life Systems to help crank out the much-needed equipment.

News of their efforts comes on the heels of Donald J. Trump’s bashing of the Detroit-based motor company, though the CEO insists that research into the production of ventilators and masks started long before his public rebuke. On Friday Trump said during his daily coronavirus press briefing that GM and its CEO were slow to respond to the need to create ventilators. However, a timeline of events published by multiple outlets offer a different story. According to factual data, GM started looking into the production of the ventilators in mid-March. By March 19, engineers from the company met with Ventec to discuss ramping up production.    

GM is now making ventilators like the ones shown, to help address shortage
NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 30: A ventilator and other hospital equipment is seen in an emergency field hospital to aid in the COVID-19 pandemic in Central Park on March 30, 2020 in New York City. The field hospital is the work of the Samaritan’s Purse organization and will add 68 hospital beds specifically equipped to serve as a respiratory care unit and to be administered by Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Shortly after that meeting, GM enlisted employees to clear out their Kokomo plant, and in the days ahead will have an assembly line created to make the ventilators that are being requested in large quantities by states like California and New York. “The ramp-up schedule we’re committing to is faster than anything we’ve ever done,” Phil Kienle, GM’s head of manufacturing in North America, told the WSJ. “We’re all outside our comfort zone.”

The partnership between Ventec, a small ventilator manufacturer, and General Motors, is expected to produce upwards of 20,000 medical devices per month, and it comes at a critical time in the COVID-19 crisis. Last week a frustrated Governor Andrew Cuomo said that the state of New York needed at least 30,000 ventilators to properly address the medical needs of New Yorkers. That was a week before Tuesday evening’s press briefing, in which Trump estimated that up to 240,000 people could lose their life to the novel SARS strain. 

General Motors says it has also launched a “rapid response” project to produce masks out of its Warren Transmission Plant amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Detroit Free Press reports that when at full capacity, the company is expected to deliver about 1.5 million masks each month.

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