DETROIT - At least two of Michigan's biggest automakers could be the country's next producers of ventilators.
Spokespeople from Ford and General Motors both said the automakers have discussed the prospect of manufacturing breathing apparatuses - machines the country is in dire need while it anticipates an exponential rise in coronavirus patients.
"As America’s largest producer of vehicles and top employer of autoworkers, Ford stands ready to help the administration in any way we can, including the possibility of producing ventilators and other equipment," read a statement from a Ford spokesperson.
Ford said it's had "preliminary discussions" with governmental officials from the U.S. and the U.K. over the feasibility of ramping up this kind of production.
"It’s vital that we all pull together to help the country weather this crisis and come out the other side stronger than ever."
Following decisions by GM, Ford, and Fiat-Chrysler to shut their plants on Wednesday after all three companies said employees of theirs had tested positive for COVID-19, the latest pandemic may force the Detroit automakers to revisit the era when they aided the war effort in the 1930s and 1940s to bolster the country's supply of tanks, trucks, and planes.
In an email from a GM spokesperson, they confirmed a quote given to the Detroit News that Mary Barra, the company's CEO, had called the Trump administration to update them on their decision to suspend production, further noting the company was studying the potential to support the production of medical equipment.
It's unclear which workers would help build the devices, as the companies said the plants where employees work were to be closed for the rest of March.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed the Defense Production Act - a law that allows the president to marshal the private sector to aid the government in times of national emergencies. White House Economic advisor Larry Kudlow said GM had offered to build ventilators during an interview on Fox News.
As state public health officials brace for a spike in coronavirus cases, many expect they won't have the tests, staff, or beds to care for all of the patients.