The race is on...to make ventilators.
Ford announced plans Monday night to build 50,000 ventilators in the next 100 days at its assembly plant in Rawsonville, Mich., and aims to churn out as many as 30,000 a month.
The company is working with GE Healthcare to produce what they’re calling the “Model A-E ventilator.” The announcement comes just three days after Detroit rival General Motors announced that it was working to build as many as 10,000 ventilators a month with its partner, the ventilator-maker Ventec Life Systems.
Production will begin April 20, Ford said. Ventilator breathing devices are in short supply as hospitals across the country struggle to cope with soaring numbers of coronavirus, or COVID-19, cases, which affect patients’ respiratory systems.
“The Ford and GE Healthcare teams, working creatively and tirelessly, have found a way to produce this vitally needed ventilator quickly and in meaningful numbers,” Ford president and CEO Jim Hackett said in a statement. “By producing this ventilator in Michigan, in strong partnership with the UAW, we can help health care workers save lives, and that’s our No. 1 priority.”
The ventilators, based on a design from the medical device company Airon, can operate “on air pressure without the need for electricity,” Ford said in a statement.
The automaker expects to produce 1,500 by the end of April, 12,000 by the end of May and 50,000 by July 4. The ventilators will be built “nearly around the clock,” Ford said, with 500 paid volunteer UAW-represented employees working on three shifts.
By contrast, Airon builds just three of its pNeutron Model A ventilators per day at its production facility in Melbourne, Fla. Ford is sending a team to Florida to help boost production there, in addition to the production in Michigan. At full capacity, Ford expects to churn out as many as 7,200 Model A-E ventilators per week.
“From the days of Rosie the Riveter, UAW members have stepped up during difficult times in this nation’s history for the good of us all,” UAW International president Rory Gamble said in a statement. “Today’s announcement by Ford that UAW employees will make ventilators at Rawsonville is in that tradition.”