Trump presses GM, Ford over ventilators
President Trump on Friday lashed out at General Motors, pressing it and Ford in a tweet that they should be churning out ventilators to be used to treat patients with the coronavirus.
Trump issued a series of tweets that spurred confusion about his use of the Defense Production Act and muddled his messaging on the need for the breathing machines one day after he questioned whether states were overestimating how many they would need in the coming months.
“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!!!!!!” Trump tweeted, referring to a shuttered GM plant that the company sold late last year.
The president in a separate tweet appeared to confirm a New York Times report that the government and GM negotiated a deal that would lead to the production of up to 80,000 ventilators but that it fell through due to unease with a price tag of more than $1 billion.
“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. Always a mess with Mary B,” Trump tweeted, swiping at CEO Mary Barra.
General Motors said in a news release Friday that it is partnering with medical device maker Ventec to convert an Indiana GM facility into a ventilator production plant. The companies said they expect the first ventilators will be available next month with the ability to produce more than 10,000 per month after that.
Barra had faced intense criticism from Trump and lawmakers in both parties in late 2018 and early 2019 after GM announced it would close the Lordstown plant in Ohio, along with four other North American factories. Trump praised Barra in May 2019 as a deal to sell the Lordstown plant to an electric truck company emerged.
A Ford spokesperson said Friday afternoon that the automaker was in contact with the Trump administration seeking guidance on manufacturing and distributing certain products, including ventilators.
Trump added “Invoke ‘P'” to the end of one of his Friday tweets, which he later clarified was a reference to the Defense Production Act (DPA). The president last week invoked the DPA, which allows him to compel companies to manufacture critical supplies in times of crisis.
But he has resisted actually using the act to direct companies to make ventilators, masks and other personal protective equipment, even as hospitals and state and local officials warn they are in desperate need of the supplies.
The president has argued that the companies are already producing enough and that the DPA can be used as leverage. His tweets on Friday did not appear to change that stance.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump added that the federal government had purchased “many Ventilators from some wonderful companies,” saying that he would disclose more information later Friday. The White House coronavirus task force is scheduled to hold its daily briefing at 5 p.m. EDT. Trump often speaks at the briefings.
The tweets amounted to something of an about-face from Trump’s comments on Fox News late Thursday when he cast doubt on the need for mass production and distribution of ventilators to states dealing with coronavirus outbreaks.
“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” Trump said. “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?'”
The U.S. has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases of any country in the world, with more than 86,000 as of Friday morning. More than 1,300 Americans have died from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Updated at 2:12 p.m. Sylvan Lane contributed.
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