Trump orders General Motors to make ventilators under Defense Production Act

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President Donald Trump has ordered General Motors to make ventilators under the Defense Production Act hours after criticizing the company for not acting quickly enough to produce the supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Korean War-era statute can force certain American companies to produce materials that are in short supply in the face of the growing outbreak.

The order comes hours after GM announced plans to build critical-care ventilators with Ventec Life Systems at one of the automaker’s components plants in Indiana.

It’s unclear how much, if any, the act will change GM’s plant to produce the ventilators, which the companies were expecting to begin shipping as early as next month.

GM, in an emailed statement, did not directly address Trump invoking the act. It reiterated that employees with Ventec, GM and their supply base “have been working around the clock for over a week to meet this urgent need.”

“Our commitment to build Ventec’s high-quality critical care ventilator, VOCSN, has never wavered,” GM said. “The partnership between Ventec and GM combines global expertise in manufacturing quality and a joint commitment to safety to give medical professionals and patients access to life-saving technology as rapidly as possible. The entire GM team is proud to support this initiative.”

The announcement that Trump was implementing the DPA came less than a day after the president cast doubt on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s assertion that his state would need at least 30,000 ventilators to meet the predicted explosion in demand from COVID-19 patients in the coming weeks.”

I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity. “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you go into major hospitals sometimes they’ll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?'”

Prior to GM’s announcement, Trump criticized the automaker and GM CEO Mary Barra on Friday for their response to producing life-saving ventilators amid the coronavirus pandemic and wanting “top dollar” for doing so. In a tweet, he referenced invoking the Defense Production Act, however did not provide details. 

Earlier Friday, The New York Times reported that GM and Ventec Life Systems, with which it is partnering to build such supplies, wanted more than $1 billion, including hundreds of millions upfront to GM to retool a car parts plant in Kokomo, Indiana, to make the ventilators.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

—CNBC’s Christina Wilkie contributed to this report