General Motors CEO Mary Barra appeared on CBS News‘ program 60 Minutes this week to discuss the automaker’s transition from building cars to building life-saving medical ventilators.
GM is currently manufacturing Ventec brand ventilator machines at one of its electronics components plants in Indiana as part of a $490 million government contract it was given under the Defense Production Act. The automaker took just three weeks to get the ventilator production project up and running, repurposing the Indiana facility with the help of the UAW in March before delivering its first ventilators in mid-April.
“It was a very easy decision,” Barra said of the pivot to producing ventilators. “When I got the call and we got the introduction to Ventec, the team just moved so quickly. And we thought if there’s a way we can help, we absolutely want to do it.”
While Barra is proud of her team for its quick and seamless pivot from making cars to producing ventilators, she’s also been focused on the company’s financials and how it will operate in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. She told 60 Minutes the automaker expects to come out the other side of the pandemic in good financial standing and that it has plans to adapt to any industry change that may be coming.
“Between the strength of our balance sheet, with the steps we’ve taken in the past, we will get through this and we will learn a lot of lessons that will apply,” Barra said.
“No one knows when things are going to get back to what I refer to as a new normal, I’ve heard other people refer to it as a new abnormal,” she added.
GM typically uses the Kokomo, Indiana facility as an automotive electronics assembly plant. This meant it was perfectly suited for manufacturing ventilators, as the machines use circuit boards and other similar components to automotive parts. GM will produce 30,000 ventilators at the Kokomo facility between now and August and will have the capacity to produce more after, should it be needed. Vice President Mike Pence plans to tour the Kokomo plant on April 30th to help draw attention to the automaker’s ventilator production efforts.
Hear what else Barra, as well as other GM executives and employees, had to say about the transition from making cars to making medical equipment in the 60 Minutes report embedded just below.