General Motors has signed a federal contract worth nearly $490 million to build ventilators amid the coronavirus crisis, the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed early Wednesday.
The U.S. government said the deal was awarded under the Defense Production Act, which the president activated to press GM into manufacturing devices to help alleviate the shortage of personal protective equipment at hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.
The contract, which the Department of Health and Human Services described as the first under the Defense Production Act, calls for GM to deliver 30,000 ventilators to the country’s Strategic National Stockpile by the end of August 2020.
Under the initial production schedule, GM will deliver 6,132 ventilators by June 1, 2020.
Hospitals in hotspots like New York have been clamoring for more ventilators to treat patients who need help breathing, saying they could face shortages without immediate action
GM said it’s partnering with Ventec Life Systems and is “working with speed and urgency to arm front-line medical professionals with the critical care ventilators they need to treat seriously ill patients.”
The automaker will produce the ventilators at its plant in Kokomo, Indiana.
Under the federal mandate, HHS is authorized to compel GM to “accept, perform and prioritize federal contracts for ventilators.”
Volume production is expected to begin the week of April 13.
Ford, GM’s archrival, is also making ventilators in partnership with GE Healthcare, as well as other equipment such as face shields. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said his company would also make them.
Follow Detroit Free Press reporter Phoebe Wall Howard on Twitter@phoebesaid.