Tesla joined General Motors in offering to manufacture hospital ventilators in auto factories shuttered by the coronavirus outbreak, an effort that would echo Detroit’s contribution to Allied powers during World War II.
CEO Elon Musk said the company would make ventilators if there is a shortage. GM CEO Mary Barra also floated the idea, top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Wednesday. On Fox News earlier, he described an unidentified auto executive’s offer to call back workers to idled plants to make the medical devices needed to treat critically ill virus patients and said it was made “on a voluntary basis for civic and patriotic reasons.”
Tesla’s plant in California plans to shut down soon, while other carmakers, including GM and Ford, have temporarily halted work because of the coronavirus outbreak.
After U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt called for arming and supporting Britain, France and other nations in 1940, Detroit’s auto industry quickly transitioned their car assembly lines over to make military jeeps, tanks and bombers.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week called on manufacturers to build ventilators. Carmakers Jaguar Land Rover and Toyota are among the companies that have offered to help.
Warren Buffett-backed Chinese automaker BYD Co. expanded into making face masks in February and now says it is the world’s biggest producer, churning out 5 million masks a day.