US President Donald Trump has ordered General Motors to make ventilators for coronavirus patients after attacking the car giant’s chief executive.
He invoked the Korean War-era Defense Production Act, which allows a president to force companies to make products for national defence.
Mr Trump said that “GM was wasting time” and action was needed to save American lives.
The US now has 104,000 cases of the virus, the most in the world.
With nearly 1,700 fatalities, America’s Covid-19 death toll still lags far behind Italy and China.
Mr Trump had previously said the defence order was not necessary, because companies were voluntarily converting their operations to help fight the spread of coronavirus.
But on Friday he said in a statement: “The virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course.”
Earlier in the day he took to Twitter to complain that GM had lowered the number of ventilators they had promised to deliver from 40,000 to 6,000 and had wanted “top dollar”.
He also criticised GM chief executive Mary Barra, saying things were “always a mess” with her at the helm of the Detroit-based auto manufacture.
GM said on Friday it could build at least 10,000 ventilators per month from April.
Why the need for ventilators?
The medical machines that keep patients breathing are much in demand amid the respiratory illness’ outbreak, which in the most serious cases attacks the lungs.
Louisiana’s governor said on Friday that New Orleans could run out of ventilators by 2 April.
The Society of Critical Care Medicine has estimated that 960,000 intensive care patients will require a ventilator at some point during the US coronavirus outbreak.
New York has requested 30,000 ventilators, but Mr Trump said during Friday’s briefing he felt that was a “high” estimate.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo fired back, insisting the request was based on “facts and on data”.