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Holden ‘unable to help’ with COVID-19 response

Shutting shop: GM Australia’s design studio will not be able to contribute manufacturing in the fight against COVID-19.

Holden says it is unable to assist with medical supplies here as GM steps up in US

30 Mar 2020

GM HOLDEN says it is unable to assist in the potential manufacturing of emergency medical equipment and supplies to help combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus as the company continues to dismantle its Australian operations and exit from the marketplace.


General Motors announced on February 17 that the historic Australian brand, which has a history that can be traced back to the 1850s, would be dropped and its 220-strong retail network across the country (and New Zealand) closed by the end of this year, taking with it the advanced Victorian-based global engineering and design facilities.


When asked whether the design studio had the ability to assist with manufacturing of parts for specialist medical devices using 3D printers or other equipment, a Holden spokesperson told GoAuto that the company did not have the capacity to contribute in any meaningful fashion.


3D printers can be used for manufacturing parts for important devices such as ventilators, which are experiencing high demand across the globe.


While Holden has not had a local manufacturing presence since late 2017, the abolition of the hi-tech GM Australia Design studio in Port Melbourne and its engineering facilities in both Melbourne and at the Lang Lang proving ground in South Gippsland were only announced in February.


It is unclear what state of dissolution these departments are in, with the spokesperson declining to comment on the progress of the shutdown.


The Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA) did, however, last week applaud the fact that some Holden dealers – all of which are independent operators – had offered their empty showrooms to authorities as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.


Meanwhile, General Motors is now ramping up its response to the escalating COVID-19 crisis in the United States – but not before US president Donald Trump lambasted the company late last week for allegedly “wasting time” with its manufacturing effort to build life-saving ventilators.


In a tweet, Mr Trump, who also called out Ford, said: “General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!! FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!!”


Mr Trump invoked the Defense Production Act, a piece of legislation first passed during the Korean War that allows a president to force companies to make products in the interest of national defence.


He also accused GM of lowering the promised number of ventilators from 40,000 to 6000, while asking a high price for the equipment.


According to the Associated Press, the White House was due to announce the partnership between GM and ventilator specialist Ventec Life Systems last Wednesday, however the officials in the Trump administration were reportedly shocked by the bill for the construction of the ventilators, which was said to have totalled $US1 billion ($A1.6b).


GM is currently partnering with Ventec Life Systems to build ventilators out of the manufacturing plant in Kokomo, Indiana, with 1000 workers to be deployed immediately.


The two companies have worked together to build a sourcing plant that would allow for the procurement of over 700 individual parts that are required to build up to 200,000 ventilators.


First deliveries of the ventilators will be available during April, with GM’s manufacturing capability able to deliver up to 10,000 units per month.


GM is also deploying its plant in Warren, Michigan, to manufacture Level 1 surgical masks, with production to begin this week.


Within two weeks, GM estimates that up to 50,000 masks will be produced per day, with the potential to increase to 100,000 per day.


As at Monday, March 30, the US had recorded more than 130,000 cases of COVID-19 – the most of any country in the world – with multiple cities and states crying out for additional medical supplies.


US director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci warned that the death toll in the US could peak at 200,000, with millions of people to be affected.

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