TRUMP: “Ford, General Motors and Tesla are being given the go ahead to make ventilators and other metal products, FAST! @fema Go for it auto execs, lets see how good you are?” — tweet Sunday.
Ford, General Motors and Tesla are being given the go ahead to make ventilators and other metal products, FAST! @fema Go for it auto execs, lets see how good you are? @RepMarkMeadows @GOPLeader @senatemajldr— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2020
TRUMP, on addressing a shortage of ventilators: “General Motors, Ford, so many companies — I had three calls yesterday directly, without having to institute like: `You will do this’ — these companies are making them right now.” — briefing Saturday.
THE FACTS: No automaker is anywhere close to making medical gear such as ventilators and remain months away — if not longer. Nor do the car companies need the president’s permission to move forward.
Neither GM or Ford is building ventilators at present, while Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted Friday that his company was “working on ventilators" but he didn’t specify how long it might take. His tweets also questioned the need and said it couldn't be done immediately.
Unless automakers can move with unprecedented speed, redirecting plants to make completely different products will take a long time — possibly too long to help with medical gear shortages.
GM announced on Friday that it is working with ventilator maker Ventec Life Systems to ramp up production. The automaker said it would help with logistics, purchasing and manufacturing, but stopped short of saying it would make ventilators in its own factories, which have been idled for two weeks after workers who'd been fearful of the contagion put pressure on the company.
Any manufacturing at GM would come much later. GM does have a lot of 3D printers and could make parts and other things to help, but it does not need permission from Trump. In fact, GM manufacturing engineers were at Ventec late last week working on this, well before Trump's tweet.
Ford, which also suspended factory production along with other automakers with operations in North America, confirmed that it too was in discussions with the Trump administration about helping, but had not started.
“We’re looking at feasibility,” Ford spokesman T.R. Reid said. “It may be possible, but it’s not you go from Rangers (small pickups) one day to ventilators the next."