Last Updated Mar 24, 2020 11:05 AM EDT
Ford Motor Company hopes to send new ventilators to hospitals treating coronavirus patients in early June, its president and CEO said Tuesday. The company is one of the private companies stepping up after medical professionals across the country warned that hospitals will run out of the vital pieces of equipment as the number of coronavirus patients grows.
"The problem is that the lines that have been in place produce hundreds or thousands. We're talking about needing hundreds of thousands," Jim Hackett said on "CBS This Morning." "So we're talking about early June, where we don't think it's a problem, but between now and June it's about ramping up."
Ford is partnering with GE Healthcare to produce the ventilators in the United States. It is also working with McLaren Automotive and Airbus in the United Kingdom.
Because many factories have been shut down under orders and guidance from the government to slow the spread of coronavirus, Hackett said changes have to be made to the normal assembly line.
"A factory is all about working together on a line, so the way these teams are designing the production of this is building some assemblies in smaller groups and having them come together to be assembled, but we'll make extremely safe places," he said.
Ford also plans to produce "positive air pressure masks" for health care workers, Hackett said. The cooling system used in some of the company's car seats use little fans that can be repurposed in the design of the masks, which move air around to help protect medical workers from getting the virus, he explained.
"Those products, in addition to the ventilators, there's actually two or three different versions of breathing apparatus that we're working on. Hundreds of thousands of the most simplest ones will be started to be produced in the next week or so," Hackett said.
When asked about the economic impact on Ford and the auto industry, Hackett said, "Our first care is for our people. Back in '08, Ford didn't take a bailout. The company borrowed enough money to take care of itself back then. We have a fortress balance sheet today, so what we're trying to do is get through this quarantine period where everyone has a job, and then on the other side, quickly rebuild demand."
Ford has contributed during other national emergencies in the past, including World War II when it made fighter planes.
"We also built ventilators way back in history for premature babies and iron lungs when there was the polio epidemic," Hackett said.