The Journal Gazette
Saturday, March 28, 2020 1:00 am

GM to build ventilators at Kokomo plant

Staff, news services

General Motors will build VOCSN critical care ventilators at GM's Kokomo plant, Ventec Life Systems announced Friday. FDA-cleared ventilators are scheduled to ship as soon as next month.

The facility expects to ramp up manufacturing capacity to more than 10,000 critical care ventilators per month with the infrastructure and capability to scale further, officials said.

GM will also begin manufacturing FDA-cleared Level 1 surgical masks at its Warren, Michigan, manufacturing facility. Production will begin next week and within two weeks ramp up to 50,000 masks per day, with the potential to increase to 100,000 per day, the company said.

GM, which normally employs about 4,000 in Allen County at its pickup truck assembly plant, is donating its resources at cost.

Manufacturers are facing a global back order of ventilators capable of supporting patients fighting COVID-19. 

“This unique partnership combines Ventec's respiratory care expertise with GM's manufacturing might to produce sophisticated and high-quality critical care ventilators,” Chris Kiple, CEO of Ventec Life Systems, said in a statement.

“We are proud to stand with other American companies and our skilled employees to meet the needs of this global pandemic,” said Mary Barra, GM chairman and CEO.

President Donald Trump issued an order Friday that sought to force GM to produce ventilators under the Defense Production Act. Trump said negotiations with General Motors had been productive, “but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course.”

Trump said “GM was wasting time” and said his actions will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives.

Previously, Trump has been reluctant to use the act to force businesses to contribute to the coronavirus fight, and it wasn't clear what triggered his order against GM.

Salary changes

Friday's announcement came a day after GM said Barra will take home one-third less in compensation for at least six months. GM's 69,000 other salaried workers will defer 20% of their cash compensation for six months, the company said Thursday.

The temporary pay cuts start Wednesday. They are intended to help the automaker get through the pandemic that's stalled the U.S. economy.

White-collar workers will get their pay back, with interest, in a lump paycheck no later than March 15, 2021.

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