General Motors (GM -1.73%) said on Friday night that it has agreed to lend its idled factories to support the production of hospital ventilators in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

GM said that it's working with Ventec Life Systems, a maker of innovative portable ventilators, to help the company increase production and speed of delivery of its products to hospitals.

"We are working closely with Ventec to rapidly scale up production of their critically important respiratory products to support our country's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic," CEO Mary Barra said in a statement. "We will continue to explore ways to help in this time of crisis."

Mary Barra standing at a podium before a backdrop with a GM logo.

Image source: General Motors.

GM said that Ventec will be able to leverage GM's logistics network, purchasing power, and manufacturing expertise to increase production of its ventilators. Ventec CEO Chris Kiple said that GM's help will allow it to get many more ventilators to hospitals quickly. 

The COVID-19 virus can cause respiratory failure in severe cases. Ventilators are devices that push oxygen into a patient's lungs under pressure. The goal is to keep severely afflicted patients alive long enough for their bodies to fight off the virus. 

Because of the scale of the pandemic, ventilators are in critically short supply right now.

GM said on Wednesday that it is shutting down all of its its auto and parts factories in North America until at least March 30, to adjust for rapidly slowing auto sales in the U.S. and Canada and for deep-cleaning and disinfection.