Michigan has been in the spotlight lately, some of it good news and some not so good. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home directives have riled a slew of Michiganders, which resulted in a series of protests at the state capitol in Lansing.

But we’re going to focus on the positive things taking place in the state. During World War II, a conflict fought in Europe and the islands of the Southwest Pacific Ocean. Detroit was known as the motor capital of the world. It was the place where tanks, airplanes and military vehicles of various types were built.

Fast-forward to 2020. The jumbo-sized automobile plants of Motor City switched gears and are now manufacturing ventilators and medical supplies needed in the fight against coronavirus illness, a pandemic that has shaken about 187 countries around the world. General Motors and Ford Motor Co. were highlighted on “60 Minutes” a couple of Sundays ago.

Both Ford and GM have partnered with ventilator makers in manufacturing the machines during the coronavirus pandemic. They are also making face masks, medical gowns and other medical supplies. The production of cars has been slowed due to the virus outbreak. Ford has delayed the production of its new sleek Mustang Mach-E model, which has a starting cost of $43,895. Deliveries to Norway, one of the first markets to get the new model, have been delayed until November of this year.

The production of ventilators and medical supplies doesn’t mean GM and Ford aren’t affected by the coronavirus. According to the Detroit Free Press, GM has suspended its cash dividend and extended its line of credit to strengthen its financial position during COVID-19. And in late April the industry was stymied due to a parts shortage needed for repairs, which raised havoc with dealer service centers, according to the Detroit Free Press. The Free Press also reported Ford lost $2 billion in the first quarter of 2020.

In a separate note of interest, the Free Press reported that GM’s Mary Barra, CEO of the auto giant, was paid $21.6 million in 2019, the third year in a row she topped the $20 million figure. Barra, according to the Free Press, was paid 20 times more than the median pay for GM’s global employees of $106,715 last year. 

The pay separation for top executives and the average wage of workers in the auto industry is bound to be a bargaining chip when the UAW Union, which represents auto workers, and the corporation’s negotiating team meet face-to-face to negotiate a new labor contract.