GM suppliers preparing to manufacture ventilator parts


The “Arsenal of Health” is mobilizing.

Parts suppliers for General Motors are preparing to manufacture parts for at least 200,000 ventilators in an effort to stave off a projected shortage of the machines in the fight against the deadly respiratory illness COVID-19.

Meridian Lightweight Technologies Holdings Inc. of Southfield, Mich., is helping GM procure six different compressor parts made of magnesium for an estimated 200,000 ventilators, said Joe Petrillo, director of North American sales.

The parts are too small for Meridian’s machines, but the company has connected GM with Twin City Die Castings Inc. in Minneapolis and Myotek, which operates manufacturing plants in Manistee, Mich., and China.

“We coalesced as an industry,” Petrillo said. “Usually we [Meridian, Twin City and Myotek] compete, but in this circumstance, we’re not competitors.”

The Society of Critical Care Medicine projects that 960,000 coronavirus patients may become critically ill in the U.S. and need to be put on ventilators. The organization estimates there are only about 200,000 ventilators in the country.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Friday the State Emergency Operations Center is working to find creative ways to bring more ventilators to Michigan. It’s estimated the state has only 1,000 right now.

“We are working to see how we can increase the number of ventilators in our state,” Whitmer said. “I feel like we are making some progress, but if the federal government is able to procure some ventilators and ship them to Michigan we will be incredibly grateful.”

President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday: ”Ford, General Motors and Tesla are being given the go ahead to make ventilators and other metal products, FAST! Go for it auto execs, lets see how good you are?”

Representatives from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency and the White House did not immediately provide an answer as to whether the U.S. government was going to buy the additional ventilators.

Meanwhile, Petrillo said the plans to start production as early as Monday were being sent Sunday afternoon.

“We’re off and running. The tool shops are designing tools right now,” said Eric Showalter, CEO of Mytek. “We’re able to at least start to kick off tools in China to build these things. If we get paid, we get paid. We’re all just trying to help where we can.”

GM announced last Friday it partnered with Bothell, Wash.-based Ventec Life Systems to increase production of its ventilators. Ventec will leverage GM’s logistics, purchasing and manufacturing prowess, the automaker said.

It’s unclear whether GM is establishing another assembly line at Ventec’s production plant or will manufacture the additional ventilators at one of its plants.

GM declined to confirm its plans, but has “teams hard at work,” Jim Cain, senior manager of sales and executive communications, told Crain’s Detroit Business in an email. Crain’s is an affiliate of Automotive News.

Canadian supplier Magna International Inc. has also been contacted to manufacture ventilator parts and is “currently investigating possibilities,” confirmed Tracy Fuerst, vice president of corporate communications.

So has powertrain parts supplier BorgWarner Inc.

“We have been approached and are currently evaluating if we can support the effort out of our facilities,” Michelle Collins, manager of marketing, told Crain’s.

Several other suppliers were contacted for comment, but did not immediately respond.

Crain’s Detroit Business senior editor Chad Livengood contributed to this report.

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