Topline: Though President Trump insisted this weekend that American automakers were already producing ventilators without his having to compel them using the Defense Production Act, the AP reported Monday that Ford, General Motors and Tesla are months away from being able to convert their factories into medical supply production facilities.
- On Sunday, the president tweeted: “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?”
- More alarmingly, he said, “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.”
- Neither Ford nor General Motors is making ventilators right now, and while Tesla’s Elon Musk has said his company is “working on it,” there’s no evidence to suggest that production is underway, and it could take months to get there, according to the AP report.
- “It’s going to be a substantial pivot to start producing an entirely different item,” Kaitlin Wowak, a professor focusing on industrial supply chains, told the AP. And, even if a pivot to producing ventilators were feasible, none of these companies would require Trump’s go-ahead to begin work.
- According to the AP, GM has announced a partnership with Ventec Life Systems, to increase ventilator production, but did not indicate that any GM factories would be repurposed for this use.
Key background: With U.S. confirmed cases of coronavirus topping 40,000, many are concerned that a dearth of ventilators and PPEs will lead to unnecessary deaths. The Defense Production Act would enable the U.S. government to mandate that companies help produce medical supplies. While Trump has invoked the DPA, he has yet to require companies to produce ventilators and other equipment, and Monday morning, Surgeon General Jerome Adams suggested that companies are volunteering to meet this need without mandate.
Chief Critic: Senator Ted Lieu, one of several Democratic lawmakers urging the president to employ the DPA to produce medical supplies, publicly chastised Trump for his comments.