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Car Production Stops: Manufacturers Might Build Ventilators Instead

Most vehicle manufacturing in the US has come to a halt. Either through concern over the exposure and spreading of the coronavirus or because parts supplies have dried up manufacturers stopped or will be tomorrow. Now comes word that General Motors and Ford are in talks with the government to open the factories for the production of medical equipment for combatting the coronavirus. With Tesla also winding down production, CEO Elon Musk has tweeted Tesla will make ventilators if there is a shortage. Ventilators are used to help breathe in coronavirus cases.

GM has already talked with the administration about producing medical equipment

1940s GENERAL SHERMAN WWII TANKS IN PRODUCTION CHRYSLER CORPORATION PLANT (Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images)

GM CEO Mary Barra has already spoken with the Trump administration about GM’s production stoppage. It is looking to be closed at least through March 30. In the meantime, there are empty plants and workers at home. A spokesperson for GM told Automotive News, “GM is working to help find solutions for the nation during this difficult time and has offered to help. We are already studying how we can potentially support the production of medical equipment like ventilators.”

As with GM, Ford has also been discussing with the government its ability to manufacture medical equipment to help fight the coronavirus. “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,” said a Ford spokesperson. 

“It’s vital we pull together to help the country

circa 1945: Two female machinists use drill presses while working side-by-side in a homefront factory during World War II. Both women wear goggles, headscarves, and striped aprons. (Photo by Harold M. Lambert/Lambert/Getty Images)

“We have had preliminary discussions with the US and UK governments and are looking into the feasibility. It’s vital that we pull together to help the country weather this crisis and come out the other side stronger than ever.”

Then yesterday Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted Tesla would make ventilators if there was a shortage. No other details were announced. Tesla is winding down manufacturing this week at its Fremont, California, plant. 

The Center for Automotive Research is pressing the administration to consider this

You Make It Right…They Make It Fight Poster by Bernard Perlin (Photo by �� K.J. Historical/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Center for Automotive Research has pressed for the administration to consider such an endeavor as published in an op-ed that has been published by The Hill. “That was a time when we did take America’s manufacturing might and bring it to bear on an issue affecting the whole country,” said Kristin Dziczek. She is CAR’s vice president of industry, labor, and economics. “That’s what we have to do now.”

Of course, she is referring to the war effort during WWII. The car companies all shut down in early 1942 to begin ramping up for different aspects of the war. From bombs to planes, and tanks to ammunition the car manufacturers all got involved in production for the war. Car production was resumed after the war in late-1945 as 1946 models.

“They might ask them to do it on a voluntary basis”

circa 1947: A worker making shells at a munitions factory. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, told Fox News, “One of them told me that even while the men and women may be off for two weeks due to the virus she’s going to try to call them back so they can produce ventilators.” He is referring to Barra. “They might even ask them to do it on a voluntary basis for civic and patriotic reasons.”

As more manufacturers shut down we’ll be hearing more of this type of switch to building equipment needed for the crisis.