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Trump criticizes GM, CEO Mary Barra for wanting ‘top dollar’ for producing ventilators

President Donald Trump criticized General Motors and CEO Mary Barra on Friday for their response to producing life-saving ventilators amid the coronavirus pandemic and wanting “top dollar” for doing so.

“As usual with ‘this’ General Motors, things just never seem to work out,” Trump tweeted. “They said they were going to give us 40,000 much needed Ventilators, ‘very quickly’. Now they are saying it will only be 6000, in late April, and they want top dollar. Always a mess with Mary B. Invoke ‘P’.”

In the initial tweet, the meaning of “Invoke P” wasn’t immediately clear. But Trump followed up with a second one, saying he was referring to invoking the Defense Production Act that would force companies to produce needed equipment. 

GM is “in the blocks, ready to start” production of ventilators but is awaiting regulatory approval, sources told CNBC’s Scott Wapner. A deal, according to the sources, could be announced as soon as Friday.

Shorty after Trump’s lambasting, GM announced it has agreed to build critical care ventilators at one of its components plants in Indiana with Washington-based Ventec Life Systems. GM said it is donating its resources at cost.

A spokesperson for the White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. GM was not immediately available for comment.

General Motors and Ventec Life Systems are partnering to convert the GM Kokomo, Indiana ERC building for the production of Ventec ventilators in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

GM

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.

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Trump, in a separate tweet, said GM “MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!!” He also urged Ford Motor to “GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!”

GM doesn’t own that plant anymore. It ended operations and sold it to an EV truck start-up called Lordstown Motors, a deal Trump once said was “GREAT NEWS FOR OHIO!” 

Ford, in an emailed statement, said the company is in “active conversations with the Administration, seeking guidance about approvals, scope and distribution relating to a series of products, including ventilators.”

Ford last week announced plans to partner with GE Healthcare and 3M to “quickly expand production of urgently needed medical equipment and supplies,” including masks, air-purifying respirators and ventilators.

“Ford is pulling out all the stops to quickly and safely provide vitally needed equipment for patients, first responders and healthcare workers,” the company said, adding it has delivered tens of thousands of Ford-produced face shields to hospitals and police agencies. 

Trump, before criticizing The New York Times report, said the government has “just purchased many Ventilators from some wonderful companies. Names and numbers will be announced later today!”

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