By Richard Hack
General Motors executives demonstrated the power of industrial determination this past week, pledging to join ventilator manufacturer Ventec Life Systems to increase production of the medical equipment in short supply during the COVID-19 crisis.
Within a five day period, GM is said to have found suppliers for 95% of the necessary components, and is working to outsource the remaining parts needed to produce 200,000 ventilators at its plant in Kokomo, Indiana. The facility had previously produced mechanical parts for GM.
“With GM’s help, Ventec will increase ventilator production,” said Chris Kiple, Ventec Life Systems CEO. “By tapping their expertise, GM is enabling us to get more ventilators to more hospitals much faster. This partnership will help save lives.”
Seattle-based Ventec has only been in business since 2017, but has proven to be highly successful in producing lightweight and portable ventilators.
According to GM CEO and Chairman Mary Barra, GM is working closely with Ventec “to rapidly scale up production of their critically important respiratory products to support our country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to explore ways to help in this time of crisis.”
Despite a tweet from President Trump that he had denied GM’s offer to produce ventilators because they “wanted top dollar,” Barra said production will begin with retooling at GM’s Kokomo plant at its own expense. Ironically, only minutes later, Trump again took to Twitter, this time to scream: “General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!!,” he tweeted. Making Trump’s statement even more perplexing is the fact that General Motors no longer owns the Lordstown plant, having sold the facility to a manufacturer of electric vehicles last year.
At 4 pm on Friday, Trump used the Defense Production Act to “force” GM to make ventilators that it was already in the process of producing.