GM To Intro Vehicles To People Who Make Them

Chevy Camaro

If you want to get people talking about your products, who better than the people who make them? Thinking along those lines, General Motors figures the best way to convert assembly-line employees into advocates is to get them behind the wheel. Thus, GM this week is launching its "Vehicle Plant Tour," which comprises a fleet of trucks that will visit some 40 manufacturing facilities.

The company says that the tour -- which features the Chevrolet Equinox, Camaro and Malibu, Buick LaCrosse, GMC Terrain and Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon -- will reach some 40,000 employees, as well as their family, friends, and extended communities where the plants are located. The tour will spend a month at each plant.

The program, which GM says is jointly developed by the United Auto Workers, runs from March to December, beginning with GM plants in Arlington, Tex., Tonawanda, N.Y., and Defiance, Ohio. At each stop, GM will do employee test drives, ride-and-drive programs and community events. Non-GM employees will be able to test-drive the vehicles as long as a GM employee is a passenger, per the company.



Said Denise Johnson, GM VP for Labor Relations, in a statement: "We want to give our employees the opportunity to become even more familiar with the final products, so they can speak based on first-hand experience about our line-up."

According to GM personal, word-of-mouth testimonials are the best way to persuade people to consider a new product. It may help that the vehicles on the tour include new vehicles that are selling far better than the vehicles they replace and, in at least one case, the top-selling vehicles in their segment.

Last month, the company sold 138,849 new vehicles, up 32% versus the month last year. During the month, the combined sales of Equinox, Terrain and Cadillac SRX were up 198% versus the combined sales of the vehicles they replaced, per the company, which says February was the seventh consecutive month that retail sales of the three vehicles were up more than 100%. Sales of the Terrain were up over 300% versus the Pontiac Torrent, which it replaces. Sales of the LaCrosse rose 100% last month, per GM.

And the Camaro is the top-selling sports car in the U.S., outselling long-time kingpin the Ford Mustang. The automaker sold 6,482 Camaros last month. Ford posted sales of 5,115 Mustangs last month, an increase of over 70% versus the month last year. General Motors says this is the ninth consecutive month that Camaro total sales outpaced Mustang, Nissan 370Z, and Dodge Challenger. The company says Texas, California and Florida account for about 25% of all Camaro retail sales, and that six of the top 10 U.S. dealers for Camaro sales are located in Texas.

The Plant Tour is actually an extension of a program that GM tested on a smaller level last year called the Vehicle Advocate program aimed at getting employees at Michigan facilities talking about the vehicles in their communities. That effort involved employees at GM World Headquarters at Detroit's RenCen, the GM Warren Technical Center, GM Powertrain Headquarters in Pontiac and GM Service and Parts Operation in Grand Blanc

There was also a pilot program last November at a plant in Flint, Mich. The company says that Wendy Stachowicz, manager for the GM Vehicle Advocate Program, and Jeff Mulnix, UAW member and Quality Network Representative at Flint Assembly Center, developed the program.

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