GM Workers Step Up with Ventilator Production to Help Coronavirus Patients

Designed by Ventec, GM's Indiana Plant will produce 200,000 ventilators as confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to rise

General Motors has finalized a deal for an all-American effort to boost production of medical ventilators that will help healthcare workers treat victims of the fast-spreading coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

Other automakers have also stepped up, including Ford with medical supply production and FCA with more face masks.

Dubbed Project V, the partnership with Washington State-based medical equipment company Ventec has GM gearing up to build Ventec’s ventilator design at the automaker’s Kokomo, Indiana factory. GM is one of many automakers switching manufacturing efforts to medical equipment as demand for new vehicles sags under the economic weight of the COVID-19 pandemic. The GM Kokomo plant normally makes electronic components for cars.

Pictured here, one of Ventec’s 18-pound ventilators essentially replacing 5 different machines all weighting 55-pounds. Photo: Ventec

According to the Reuters news agency, GM hopes to build as many as 200,000 ventilators through Project V, with the car company set to supply most of the parts that will make up the breathing apparatus.

General Motors is enlisting the help of its parts supplier network, too. According to GM, components made by those suppliers should start coming in during the “next 2-3 weeks,” but GM isn’t ready to say when its Kokomo-based operation might be able to start making the ventilators themselves.

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Some suppliers are working non-stop to ramp up production and redesign parts in order to turn them out more quickly.

An insufficient supply of ventilators is key among the healthcare system’s concerns during the coronavirus outbreak: In Italy, where nearly 7,000 people had died from the COVID-19 illness as of March 24, doctors have had to choose which patients got ventilators. And in New York State, healthcare professionals are testing the effectiveness of using one ventilator on two patients simultaneously to mitigate that jurisdiction’s shortage of the devices.

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Chris Chase
Chris has been writing professionally about cars since 2004, in print and online. He lives in Ottawa with his wife and two feline tyrants. In rare quiet moments, he can be found travelling or playing one of his way-too-many guitars. Chris is also a journalist member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).