| New York Post
President Trump used his powers under the Defense Production Act for the first time to order General Motors to start producing ventilators to deal with the worsening coronavirus pandemic.
The president said the administration had been negotiating with GM, but that the process wasn’t moving fast enough, so he directed Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to require GM to speed up production. “Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course,” Trump said in a statement. “GM was wasting time. Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives.”
Trump had invoked the Korean War-era act — which gives the federal government the power to order private businesses to act in a crisis — but had said for days he had no need to use its powers, asserting that businesses had been cooperating regardless.
But that changed Friday, when he lashed out at GM chief Mary Barra over what he said was the company’s foot-dragging. “As usual with ‘this’ General Motors, things just never seem to work out. They said they were going to give us 40,000 much needed Ventilators, ‘very quickly’. Now they are saying it will only be 6000, in late April, and they want top dollar,” he wrote, before upbraiding Barra as “a mess.”
“General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!! FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!!”
The tweetstorm came after a New York Times article published Thursday reported that the White House bagged a $1 billion deal with GM that would have allowed the automaker to build as many as 80,000 desperately needed ventilators.
Trump’s order also came a day after he told Fox News that he didn’t think New York needed 30,000 ventilators, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo had urgently requested.
“I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be,” Trump said.
“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” Trump continued. “You know you go into major hospitals sometimes they’ll have two ventilators and now, all of a sudden, they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”
GM said earlier Friday that it would begin producing critical care ventilators with the medical equipment company Ventec Life Systems, which announced the partnership in a statement.
“Ventec Life Systems announced today General Motors will build VOCSN critical care ventilators at GM’s Kokomo, Indiana manufacturing facility with FDA-cleared ventilators scheduled to ship as soon as next month,” the company said.
“Across all manufacturers, there is a global backorder of critical care ventilators capable of supporting patients fighting COVID-19. The companies are adding thousands of units of new capacity with a significantly expanded supply chain capable of supporting high volume production. GM is contributing its resources at cost.”