Auto manufacturers are looking into how they might change over car plants to manufacture medical equipment critical to the fight against the coronavirus global pandemic. Hospitals need more ventilators to treat those hit hardest by the disease. The Defense Production Act, signed into law by President Trump on March 18, means the federal government is now authorized to compel manufacturers to make such equipment.
While it may take time to convert auto manufacturing plants into major medical supply manufacturers, auto companies like Ford and General Motors are already discussing with the White House how they might mobilize to make it happen. The United Kingdom is also speaking to auto and other manufacturers about making the switch to manufacturing important medical equipment.
Part of the difficulty in making the switch is the fact that many car companies have shut down plants as part of lockdown efforts to contain the spread of the virus. Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler had already shut down facilities as of March 19. Manufacturers were slated to remain closed until at least the end of March.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is also interested in helping the effort to combat the coronavirus by using car plants to make ventilators, but warned that it would be impossible to make a quick switchover.