Even as the coronavirus continues to spread, the Detroit Three automakers are working plans to help fight the outbreak by giving medical professionals more of the tools they need.
In an effort reminiscent of the “Arsenal of Democracy,” General Motors and Fiat Chrysler are moving forward with plans to produce needed equipment. Ford is the process of following suit, although official plans haven’t been revealed yet. Tesla’s also offered to make ventilators at its California plant.
General Motors is partnering up with Seattle-area medical equipment manufacturer Ventech Life Systems on what it’s calling Project V.
The plan has GM converting its parts plant in Kokomo, Indiana, to assemble the components necessary for ventilators. The goal of the venture is to build up to 200,000 ventilators, people familiar with the plans who asked not to be identified told Reuters.
As part of the effort to boost ventilator output from Ventec, GM has arranged for the supply of 95% of the parts needed to build the ventilator and is seeking to source the remaining 37 necessary parts, according to an email to suppliers from Shilpan Amin, GM’s vice president of global purchasing.
Ventec and GM have been working around the clock to develop the plans to build more ventilators. With GM on board to help, Ventec “is now planning exponentially higher ventilator production as fast as possible,” GM spokesperson Dan Flores told Reuters, adding that the Kokomo plant is the site being targeted to handle the production.
GM suppliers have jumped into action, working to convert their facilities from auto parts to ventilators parts. Additionally, some of Ventech’s suppliers are taking the steps necessary to exponentially grow their production rates to meet the expected demand.
Fiat Chrysler is also swinging into action, by converting one of its plants in China to respiratory mask production. FCA CEO Mike Manley informed employees of the move Sunday. The goal is to produce more than 1 million masks per month.
“We are working through the protocols to start production in the coming weeks and ultimately produce over a million face masks per month to donate to first responders and health care providers,” he wrote.
Ford has been largely quiet on its plans to be involved, only confirming that it was in the process of working up a plan to help, the details of which would be release as soon as they were finalized.
In the interim, the fourth U.S. automaker, Tesla, is also working on plans to produce ventilators. Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted Sunday the EV maker was working on producing ventilators. He said they “should arrive within a few days,” adding that he expected Tesla to have about 1,200 to distribute this week.
Musk noted he had a long discussion with Medtronic PLC about ventilators, adding Sunday that Tesla also is working on getting other types of personal protective equipment. Musk told a hospital the company was sending masks and supplies to help out.