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Trump seeks to force General Motors to produce ventilators

By TOM KRISHER

AP Auto Writer

DETROIT — President Donald Trump issued an order Friday that seeks to force General Motors to produce ventilators for coronavirus patients 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 that 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. GM is among the farthest along of U.S. companies trying to repurpose factories to build ventilators. It’s working with Ventec Life Systems, a small Seattle-area ventilator maker to increase the company’s production and GM will use its auto electronics plant in Kokomo, Indiana, to make the machines.

GM said Friday it could build 10,000 ventilators per month starting in April with potential to make even more.

After Trump invoked the act, GM said in a statement that it has been working around the clock for more than a week with Ventec and parts suppliers to build more ventilators. The company said its commitment to build Ventec’s ventilators “has never wavered.”

Trump said from the Oval Office that the government thought it had a deal for 40,000 ventilators but GM cut the number to 6,000 and talked about a higher price than previously discussed.

“I didn’t like it,” he said. “So we did activate it with respect to General Motors.

At his daily briefing Friday evening, Trump said cost became an issue with GM. “We didn’t want to play games with them,” he said, adding that GM now agrees with him and he may be able to pull the order.

He also said wasn’t happy with GM for closing its factory in Lordstown, Ohio. “I didn’t go into it with a very favorable view,” he said.

GM said it is offering resources to Ventec “at cost.” Ventec, not GM, is talking with the government, and the only changes Ventec has made have been at the government’s request, said Chris Brooks, the company’s chief strategy officer. GM would merely be a contract manufacturer for Ventec, he said.

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