Soon after President Donald Trump declared he would use his authority vested in the WWII-era Defense Production Act, American automakers began announcing plans to join in the medical war effort against the COVID-19 coronavirus. As seen in other parts of the world, and now here, a shortage of personal protective equipment for health-care workers, ventilators and other medical equipment makes the situation more dire than it needs to be. To help alleviate this, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have announced plans to the fabricate necessary medical equipment that’s needed immediately.
On Friday, GM announced a collaboration with Seattle-based Ventec Life Systems to build ventilators. The Detroit automaker has suspended production in all of its North American facilities, and has its salaried workforce largely working from home. According to The Detroit News, GM is eyeing its Kokomo, Indiana manufacturing facility to produce the ventilators. A manufacturing timeline is not currently known.
The GM Kokomo facility is a relatively small one, and employs just under 400 people. The plant is operated by a subsidiary known as GM Components Holdings, LLC, and produces things like semiconductors when it’s not making emergency ventilators. Kokomo is also the location of an FCA facility where an employee tested positive for COVID-19.
Speaking of which, FCA will be producing and donating much-needed face masks at one of its facilities in, get this, China. Conversion of the facility is said to have started today. When asked about the choice of location, FCA PR responded by saying it’s “the fastest way we could get relief to U.S. first responders and health care workers was to use one of our operational plants,” according to The Detroit News. FCA is also working with ventilator manufacturer Siare Engineering International Group in badly hit Italy, which is currently the epicenter for COVID-19 in Europe, followed closely by Spain and then Germany.
Lastly, Ford Motor Company is currently said to be in preliminary talks with both the United States and United Kingdom governments on how to provide a speedy solution.