In a series of tweets sent out Friday morning, President Donald Trump urged General Motors to start manufacturing ventilators at the Lordstown Assembly plant in Ohio, which it sold to Lordstown Motor Company late last year.
Trump said GM had previously promised to manufacture “40,000 much-needed ventilators,” to help address a shortage of the devices brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, but as a New York Times report published on Thursday outlined, the automaker later walked back the number of ventilators it could produce. The NYT report said GM could produce around 7,500 ventilators in a short timeframe, though Trump’s tweet said the company could only produce a maximum of 6,000 ventilators before late April.
The NYT report also said the Federal Emergency Management Agency would postpone the $1 billion deal to purchase the ventilators from GM as it assessed if the company was asking too much money for the devices. GM had previously entered an agreement with Ventec to produce ventilators at one of its components plants in Indiana.
In response to the postponement of the deal, Trump said GM must act immediately to begin producing ventilators at the “stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant,” that it operates. GM sold Lordstown Assembly to fledgling electric vehicle maker Lordstown Motor Company for an undisclosed sum last November. At the time, Trump said the sale of the plant was “great news.”
Trump also criticized GM as a whole, saying that “as usual with ‘this’ General Motors, things just never seem to work out,” and said that it is “always a mess with Mary B,” referring to GM CEO Mary Barra. He also suggested the country should “invoke P,” a reference to the Defense Production Act. Under the Defense Production Act, the President can require businesses to fulfill orders deemed necessary for national defense. In this instance, it would authorize Trump to force GM or any other company to begin manufacturing ventilators or medical supplies that will help in the fight against COVID-19.
GM later sent out a press release on Friday confirming it would go ahead with plans to produce Ventec ventilators at its components plant in Kokomo, Indiana. GM said that “depending on the needs of the federal government,” it is “poised to deliver the first ventilators next month and ramp up to a manufacturing capacity of more than 10,000 critical care ventilators per month with the infrastructure and capability to scale further.” The automaker also said it is donating its resources to the effort at cost.
In addition, GM announced it will also begin manufacturing FDA-cleared Level 1 surgical masks at the former Warren Transmission plant in Michigan. Production on the masks will begin next week and will ramp up to 50,000 masks per day within two weeks, with the potential to increase output to 100,000 per day.