Automakers in the United States are offering to provide assistance to the government in producing essential medical equipment to health professionals amid the ongoing spread of the COVID-19 illness in the region.
Following its decision to temporarily adjust production schedules in factories, General Motors and Ford both stated they are considering building ventilators and other equipment.
GM CEO Mary Barra said the company has met with the Trump administration as GM is reportedly studying its capacity to help.
She also mentioned Ford is already in initial talks with both the U.S. and U.K. governments.
Ventilator manufacturers have already established supply chains, designs, and certification processes. So, at present, the automakers are trying to determine where they can be part of the process and what point in the system they can provide assistance.
“That’s the focus. It’s early and it’s fluid, and we’re trying to look at it from soup to nuts where we might be able to fit in. You don’t just flick a switch and have ventilators ready to go. We’ll help absolutely where we can,” GM spokesperson Jim Cain told Car and Driver.
Ford, as Barra confirmed, is trying to approach the situation with a global perspective, saying it has spoken with U.S. and U.K. officials to see if it would be feasible for the automaker to take part in the production of medical equipment.
“As America’s largest producer of vehicles and top employer of autoworkers, Ford stands ready to help the administration in any way we can, including the possibility of producing ventilators and other equipment,” Ford spokesperson Rachel McCleery told Automotive News.
In a tweet, Tesla and Space-X CEO Elon Musk also said his companies would help build ventilators if there are shortages of supply in the country. He also replied to a tweet from Nate Silver, editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight, saying, “Ventilators are not difficult, cannot be produced instantly. Which hospitals have these shortages you speak of right now.”
Musk’s pronouncements prompted a response from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, saying the city government is buying and that they are reaching out to Musk directly.
“We have reached out to the person who runs Musk’s family office, his communications director and his lobbyist. Given his response on Twitter, we’re hopeful he will be able to help,” Press secretary Freddie Goldstein said.
Musk replied: “Sounds good, we will connect with your team to understand potential needs.” The company, however, has not released an official statement regarding these correspondences when contacted.
The United States is currently experiencing a sudden surge in the number of confirmed cases with over 35,000 cases and 458 deaths as of March 22.