General Motors Co. in Detroit and Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn have been in discussions with the federal government about how they might be able to help with production of medical equipment needed to combat the global COVID-19 pandemic.
A GM spokesperson says the company 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.”
Additionally, GM spokesman Pat Morrissey says, “We’ve confirmed we are exploring how we might support ventilator production. We don’t have any more details at this time – but work is underway to understand how we might help.”
Multiple sources reported Wednesday that GM CEO Mary Barra spoke to White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow about the idea after announcing the automaker will suspend North American production through March 30.
A Ford spokesperson says the Dearborn automaker “stands ready to help the administration in any way we can, including the possibility of producing ventilators and other equipment.” Ford confirmed it also has had preliminary discussions with the government.
During World War II, GM, Ford, and other automakers retooled auto plants to build tanks, planes, and other military equipment and weapons, earning Detroit the nickname Arsenal of Democracy.
While the worldwide shortage of ventilators has been well reported, it’s unclear how long it would take an automaker to retool and ramp up production to build a complex piece of medical equipment like a ventilator. The effort may be aided by 3D printers.