The story behind GM’s scramble to build ventilators for coronavirus patients

The global automotive industry has mobilized its collective manufacturing to address the coronavirus pandemic. General Motors was the first to step up with a manufacturing plan, which the Trump administration tacitly approved when it invoked the Defense Production Act, but not before being criticized by the president for its initial efforts. 

GM has now been authorized to build ventilators, but was that a result of Trump’s prodding, or in spite of it? 

The New York Times describes the efforts undertaken by GM and Ventec to come up with a viable solution: “While much of the U.S. economy has ground to a halt because of the coronavirus outbreak, several dozen workers in orange vests and hard hats were hauling heavy equipment on Sunday at a General Motors plant in Kokomo, Ind.”

“The crew was part of a crash effort to make tens of thousands of ventilators, the lifesaving machines that keep critically ill patients breathing. The machines are in desperate demand as hospitals face the prospect of dire shortages. New York State alone may need 30,000 or more,” the article said.

After GM briefed the administration on its plans, Trump criticized them for being too costly and limited in scope. Some General Motors public relations representatives, normally quiet when it comes to matters of politics, expressed frustration with the administration and pride in the company’s efforts to contribute during the crisis. 

One employee, calling Trump’s Twitter rant about the company’s proposal “a fib,” said, “Never been more proud of my company & the commitment to co-create ventilators in order to save lives.”

And while GM’s plans never changed, Trump reversed his criticism Monday, and even said that GM is “doing a fantastic job” of preparing to build ventilators for patients who are unable to breathe on their own.

The full feature is available on the NYT website for free, as the publication has suspended subscription charges for pandemic-related news; we encourage you to read it and draw your own conclusions.

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