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White House wary of $1 billion price tag for GM, Ventec to produce ventilators: reports

The White House has hesitated to follow through on a deal with General Motors and Ventec Life Systems to produce much-needed ventilators after government officials decided there was a need for more cost assessment, according to media reports

The deal, which had been slated to be announced Wednesday, was projected to produce up to 80,000 ventilators for distribution to health facilities in dire need of critical resources amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

However, the Trump administration reportedly hesitated after the manufacturers said that the production would cost more than $1 billion, and asked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assess whether the price tag was too expensive.  

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According to The New York Times, the deal could still be possible, but government officials are currently looking at “at least a dozen” other proposals.

The deal asked for several hundred million dollars to be paid upfront to General Motors to repurpose a car parts plant in Kokomo, Ind., where the ventilators would be made using Ventec’s technology.

By Thursday evening, when the administration’s coronavirus task force held one of their now-regular briefings, there was still no deal to report.

A General Motors spokesman said that there was no problem with the deal on the company's end. The spokesman told the Times that “Project V,” as the ventilator deal is called, was moving very fast, and a company official said “there’s no issue with retooling” the car parts plant. 

As hospitals scramble to obtain ventilators, several major car manufacturers have said they are willing to focus their resources on producing the breathing machines. 

Ford CEO Jim Hackett told CBS this week that the ventilators his company is making will not be available until “early June.”

“The problem is the lines that have been in place produce hundreds or thousands; we're talking about needing hundreds of thousands,” he said.