Short Circuit (Volt) Rolling Off Production Lines
Detroit's next big tour stop may very well end up being the General
Motors Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant where the Chevrolet Volt is
GM officials said they're already preparing for huge interest -- from
school groups to industry leaders -- wanting to visit the plant once
official production of the extended-range electric car begins in November.
"I'm expecting that we will have all different kinds of visits," plant
manager Teri Quigley told the Free Press in an interview this week.
"I think it will be five times as many people as normal at the onset,"
Preproduction of the Volt began last week at the plant, which saddles
the Detroit and Hamtramck border. Three Volt cars were built last week,
and GM expects to build fewer than 500 preproduction versions from now
and until official production begins.
Already, the daily list of non-factory workers requesting access to the
plant exceeds the factory's 1,100-person workforce, Quigley said.
"It's three times what you would normally expect ... and I'm only
building a couple of them," she said. "What happens later?"
Uninvited visitors aren't welcome yet. Those coming to the plant now are
either GM workers from other offices or suppliers working on the Volt
GM is working on plans for outside visitors, such as educational
materials in the plant's lobby and a video about the Volt.
Besides the Volt, the plant has some other interesting features,
including a cemetery dating to 1863 and a 16.5-acre wildlife habitat.
The factory also built President Barack Obama's limousines.
Unlike other GM vehicles
The first Chevrolet Volt drove off the line at General Motors'
Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant last week to cheers from a spontaneous
crowd gathered to watch.
It's not the official production -- which is to begin in November -- but
a tangible milestone that shows the extended-range electric car is
getting closer to becoming a reality.
"It was a heart-pumping moment," plant manager Teri Quigley said about
driving a Volt off the assembly line. "It's real -- we've been looking
at this thing for a long time."
With its extend-range, electric-drive powertrain, the Volt is unlike
other GM vehicles.
"We're totally excited. This is groundbreaking for us," said Sheryl
Brown, 44, a UAW worker in the quality department. In 2007, the mood was
drastically different with rumors the plant might close.
But the UAW labor contract that year gave workers hope with an agreement
that said if GM decided to move forward with the Volt, it would be built
at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant.
Last year, GM announced it was investing $336 million in the plant to
prepare for the Volt.
The economic downturn has been felt at the plant, which was down for 19
weeks last year.
As GM was facing its darkest days at the end of 2008, Quigley and her
team quietly began preparing the plant for the Volt.
Quigley has had teams at GM's preproduction facility in Warren working
on early versions of the Volt as they prepare to build the vehicle.
"We've done a ton of training," she said.
'We can touch them'
The plant doesn't have a separate assembly line for the Volt, and it
will be built along with the factory's other vehicles, the Cadillac DTS
and Buick Lucerne.
There are some differences, however, for the Volt, including a 400-pound
"It's really, really great that we've got this Volt in our system. It's
real. We can touch them and feel them and do our job on them. But at the
end of the day, the customer who is buying the DTS in front of that Volt
or the Lucerne behind that Volt, doesn't care that there was a Volt
between the two," Quigley said. "We can be excited, but we have to be
focused, we can't let the Volt distract us from what we're doing on
these other cars."
While Detroit-Hamtramck is running at one shift right now, Quigley hopes
demand for the Volt and possibly another vehicle will justify adding a
second shift in the future.
She's optimistic about GM's future. "The desire to succeed is there,"
Drawn to engineering
Quigley has been with GM for more than 20 years and became
Detroit-Hamtramck plant manager in 2007.
She's from Dexter and was the first female student in her high school's
auto body shop class.
Her father, Bill Quigley, worked in GM public relations before retiring
in the 1980s, but she was dead set on finding her own path outside of GM.
"I was never going to do what my dad did," she said.
But her interest in engineering eventually attracted her to a program at
General Motors Institute, now known as Kettering University, that led to
a lifelong career.
"I really love what I do," she said. "You know how you did at the end of
the day. There's no wondering if you did good, bad or indifferent."
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