The Detroit big boys are all hard at work assisting the war against the coronavirus. Earlier, we read about Ford’s efforts, which included face shields, masks and a rather cool powered air-purifying respirator for frontline healthcare workers. Now here’s General Motors making ventilators.

The carmaker said yesterday that it had started producing ventilators in the volume needed to treat severely ill Covid-19 patients and will deliver the first batch to the US government this month, Reuters reported.

Note that these aren’t donations. The US department of health and human services (HHS) has awarded nine contracts amounting nearly $2.6 billion (RM11.26 billion) to produce 137,000 ventilators by the end of 2020 for the US strategic national stockpile, including a contract to GM worth $489.4 million (RM2.12 billion) for 30,000 ventilators by the end of August.

Other contracts went to Dutch company Philips, General Electric, Hill-Rom, Medtronic, ResMed, Vyaire Medical, Hamilton Medical and Zoll Medical. HHS secretary Alex Azar said in a statement the contracts “will mean we have more capacity to respond to the pandemic as it evolves.”

White House adviser Peter Navarro said that “as these lifesaving ventilators roll off GM’s assembly line as fast as tanks once did in an earlier world war, they will be rapidly deployed.”

GM is working with ventilator firm Ventec Life Systems to produce the medical device, which is needed in severe Covid-19 cases. The novel coronavirus attacks the respiratory system, and the US is now the epicentre of the global pandemic, with the highest amount of cases and deaths.

The carmaker said it would ship more than 600 ventilators in April, and that it expected to fill nearly half the order by the end of June and the full order by the end of August. The ventilators will be produced at a GM plant in Indiana.

GM will also begin producing 1.5 million face masks a month at its plant in Mexico at the end of April, with the target being nine million masks over six months to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Some masks will be donated to Mexico’s public hospitals, while others will be used for employees and distributors, the carmaker’s Mexican arm said in a statement. Last month, GM said it would begin making up to 1.5 million masks a month in the US.