GM, Ford coronavirus US ventilator projects close in on their finish lines

GM and Ford said on Tuesday they are close to completing production of ventilators, and are ramping down or exiting the operations.
GM and Ford said on Tuesday they are close to completing production of ventilators, and are ramping down or exiting the operations.
Image: FORD

General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co said on Tuesday they are close to completing production of ventilators ordered by US president Donald Trump's administration in response to the surge in coronavirus cases, and are ramping down or exiting the operations.

Many of the ventilators assembled by the car makers and other manufacturers have gone into a US government stockpile as doctors shifted away from using invasive ventilators on Covid-19 patients. The government has 108,000 ventilators in its medical equipment stockpile and 12,000 deployed at hospitals, the US Health and Human Services (HHS) department said on Tuesday.

GM and medical equipment maker Ventec Life Systems are in the "home stretch" toward completing a contract to deliver 30,000 critical care ventilators by the end of August under a $489m contract with the federal government, the car maker said.

GM and Ventec have already delivered more than 20,000 machines, GM spokesman Jim Cain said.

Ford has assembled about 47,000 of the 50,000 ventilators it agreed to supply to partner General Electric Co, Ford spokeswoman Rachel McCleery said. GE has a $336m (roughly R5,651,805,600) contract with the government.

HHS said it has received more than 69,000 ventilators assembled by GM and Ford and their partners, and "both of these delivery schedules are nearly complete."

Ford and GM earlier this year said they would employ as many as 1,500 people on ventilator assembly lines. Car makers likened the efforts to their switch from making cars to tanks and planes during World War 2.

With North American car and truck factories back in operation, the Detroit car makers are winding down their forays into ventilator manufacturing, but continuing to make respiratory masks.

GM has said it plans to transfer the ventilator operations at a factory in Kokomo, Indiana, to its partner Ventec on September 1. Union-represented GM workers employed at the plant will return to the car maker, and temporary workers will remain with Ventec.

Ford transferred full-time workers who were building ventilators back to their home plants in May, and the majority of temporary workers still assembling ventilators will have employment opportunities building the new Ford Bronco SUV at a factory near Detroit, a company spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The car makers' efforts to build ventilators and other medical equipment were launched in a politically charged atmosphere as the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic swamped the US economy and healthcare system. The shortage of ventilators became a symbol of the nation's struggle to respond.

Trump put pressure on the car makers as part of a broader push to secure more than 130,000 ventilators by the end of 2020.

The car makers used the medical equipment assembly operations to test safety protocols they later used to reopen their vehicle-making operations.

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