Invited to GM Event in Detroit. GM Product and Technology Event.

Discussion in 'The Coffee Shop ~ Chit Chat' started by ChevyFan, Aug 13, 2009.

  1. ChevyFan

    ChevyFan The Sheriff Staff Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts

    A lot of people contact me every day. Most get a casual reply, as it’s hard to spend a lot of time responding when I’ve always got 15 things to do and 40 emails to blast out. August 4, 2009 was an exception, I received a message on with the title “INVITATION: GM Product Technology Event - August 10, 2009”. Huh, you don’t see that every day.

    It took me about 10 seconds to think through it – will I be there? Yes. Yes, I will.


    Breakfast in Troy

    I woke up in my hotel in Troy, Michigan on the morning of the 10th and hurried downstairs to a buffet breakfast for attendees. I found a room full of folks chowing down on hearty Midwest grub, engaging in polite conversation. I sat next to a documentary film maker from California and a guy from Atlanta who did PR for software companies. There were rumors of attendees with big blogs, heavy twitter users and maybe a forum guy or two. Hah, I said nothing! There were also people with no automotive interests at all.

    We chatted, trying to figure out who were all were and why GM took the time and spent the money to bring us all together. What’s the connection between us? It was like GM’s version of LOST - seriously.

    Meeting Fritz Henderson at the "GM Customer Event"

    Going to GM Technical Center in Warren

    I was told the number of total participants was about 100. Yeah, that’s about right. It took a small line of shuttles (worst shuttle ride of my life – NOT freeway-speed shuttles) to move everyone to the GM Technical center in Warren. We got into the building, took a look at three or four GM vehicles on display and mingled some more.

    Oh, and there were NO CAMERAS signs when we walked in with security folks around to enforce that. Camera phone??? Have to tag it to block the lens. Interesting!

    I talked with GM’s Kelly Wysocki for a minute, I had previously twittered back and forth with her about the Silverado Hybrid. Next, I chatted up a guy who was the chief of staff for a former Mayor of Albuquerque. Again I wondered what the common thread between us was.

    Let’s Get This Party Started Right

    At about 8:30 AM we were ushered into a sloping theatre-style media room. Bob Lutz was introduced and presented his opening remarks. Bob Lutz is the vice-Chairman of GM and also the (un-official?) Chief Creative Officer.

    Highlights from Bob Lutz's opening remarks:
    1. Making Money. What's the most important element for GM to make money? “Great cars, trucks and crossovers.” (No mention of SUVs)
    2. Problems Fixed. Over the last five years, problems with GM products have been “fixed”. New vehicles look good up close with 3mm body panel gaps. No longer building “20-footers”.
    3. Many painful cuts. Cut brands in half, cut dealers, cut production of vehicles, cut operating and labor costs, got rid of debt.
    4. They are NOT Government Motors. The government is not active in operations. They are an equity investor and they want their money back.
    5. Fuel efficiency dominance today – but no one knows it
      - Full-size Trucks - The most fuel efficient full-sized trucks and SUVs at 22 MPG highway
      - Mid-size Sedans - Malibu beats Accord and Camry by several MPG
      - Compact SUVs - Equinox beats RAV4 and CRV by 7 or 8 MPG highway
    6. Committed to hybrids, advanced propulsion technology, plug-in technology, and the hydrogen fuel cell. Chevy Volt is on target for late 2010 launch, more on that later.
    7. Presidential task force is the first time in US history where the industry has had someone in the Federal Government to oversee the health of the national industry.
    8. Competition? May the best car win! - GAME ON!
  2. ChevyFan

    ChevyFan The Sheriff Staff Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts

    “What’s my color?” - Starting the tour.

    We then were broken into three groups. I had a red-dot on my name badge, so I’m in the red group. Kelly Wysocki was our leader. We gathered together and went to the GM Design Dome where we were met by David Lyon, the executive director of interior design. I guess the Design Dome is a big deal; it’s from the 1950’s tech center, something like that.

    The dome showcased some of the future designs of GM, a lot of them were clay mockups with paint, we got warned to look in the windows to see if there were an interior, otherwise we’ll just pull the door handle off if it’s just a model and will hear a scream of horror from a designer nearby. I totally wish I had a camera. We all stood in the middle of the dome as the vehicles aligned the circumference of the dome pointing in towards us.

    The GM Design Dome - I guess this is a big deal to go inside here to see new vehicles. I mean, a REALLY BIG deal, and GM opened the door and let 100 regular folks walk in and see future designs before the traditional press was allowed in.

    What did we see? - Inside the GM Design Dome - Chevrolet

    As best as I can remember this is what we saw.

    - Chevy Spark and the Aveo. Spark should be available next year? The Aveo is available now. They’re small. I think I would be fine in the front for a small trip. Crazy rear doors though, that’s what I remember the most, door handle up high.

    - Chevy Volt! I think everyone’s seen this by now. Very cool seeing it before it was shown to the public. I didn’t get into it, not sure it open to get into.

    - Next generation Chevy Malibu. It looks better than the current one. It’s wider overall and they claim that it will get even better fuel economy too. Should be a big seller.

    - 2011 Chevy Cruze looked interesting. It’s replacing the Cobalt and will set MPG standards. It looks larger and more refined than the Cobalt.

    - Chevy Equinox is out now but 2010 gets 32 MPG highway. I like the Equinox, good styling for the small Crossover. Splits the Trailblazer and minivan market with its big brother the Traverse/Acadia/Enclave. Trailblazer is gone for 2010.

    - 2010 Chevy Camaro and 2011 Camaro Convertible! David Lyon mentioned that he’s got a ’67 Camaro at home and he likes to drive the new one better. Lots of people want the Camaro convertible, I’ve seen it and it looks awesome.

    - Corvette Grand Sport Convertible! Wow, very impressive looking. Will be available later this fall. I hope I get a chance to drive this in the ride and drive event at the proving grounds later!

    - Concept small Compact SUV that will seat 7 passengers, good for families. It’s a SUV with a crossover look like a small Traverse, so I guess it will be body on frame. I didn’t catch the name, but it looked interesting.

    Huh, NO TRUCKS in the hopper for new designs, no replacement planned for the Chevy Colorado, I guess there is no need to replace the Silverado for a few years. Midsized trucks are to be sold off. Tom Peters was introduced; he’s the chief designer for the Camaro and the Corvette! Other GM executives were there, we didn’t have much time to look around, before we got moved off to take a look at the Cadillac design showroom.

    Cadillac Studio

    Wow, Clay Dean introduced himself and started talking about Cadillac design. He’s the design director for Cadillac and has formerly worked on such hits as the HHR, the new Malibu and maybe you heard about the 2007 Chevy Silverado NBS? That’s his design.

    Steve Shannon jumped in, he’s the Cadillac marketing manager, talked about the CTS sedan, the Escalade which just got the Hybrid option, the SRX which is new, the CTS sport wagon (wow, that looks pretty cool!) and the CTS coupe. I guess the CTS will now have a range of vehicles that will be released over the next few years.

    They stressed not just the vehicle too, but the customer experience all the way through to the dealer network. That struck me as important. It’s also a world-wide effort with design studios all over the world taking part in the renewal in Cadillac.

    We chatted for a few minutes about the CTS Sport Wagon (edit: with Klaus-Peter Martin - Cadillac Communications). No price set, probably high 40’s is my guess. They’re going to ramp it up too with a 6.2L supercharged 540 HP version of the CTS as well. There was a lot to take in very quickly, but we saw the 2010 SRX Cadillac crossover, pretty cool. Will be a turbo version of the SRX coming out with a sport mode. Only two rows of seats for 2010, it’s for empty nesters probably, not for young familes.
  3. ChevyFan

    ChevyFan The Sheriff Staff Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts

    GMC Studio

    That’s what I’m talking about! We went next to see what’s new for GMC. The head of GMC (and Buick), Susan Docherty introduced herself and some of the upcoming changes to GMC.

    They know that the GMC name has a lot of heritage and they plan to expand that. Even in the down economy, GM still does well with the GMC nameplate. Not just sticking with trucks and suvs, they’ve gone into the crossover market and the GMC Acadia and Terrain are the fruit from that. I thought the Acadia was a 7 passenger, but actually is an 8 passenger.

    The Terrain was brand new when I saw it, but it’s built on the Equinox platform, just targeting a different buyer. It does not share body panels with the Equinox though - Interesting. I got a good look. Very nice, I want one! Lots of standard features like a rear-camera thrown in.

    We saw a crazy-looking concept crossover-suv-transformer looking vehicle as well. Not sure what to think about that – which means I don’t like it at all and it should be destroyed before it goes into production and uglies up the streets of America.

    Buick Studio

    I hung out too long looking and talking about the GMC’s with people so I missed a lot of what was going on in the Buick Area, but they had more of the same … just for Buick. Susan Docherty came back in here with us after a few minutes.

    Buick Enclave is bringing in a younger Buick buyer than in the recent past, lots of young families, they’re excited about that. The 2010 Lacrosse is for sale this week, looks pretty nice. Buick also has plans for adding new sedans as well that are just mocked up, a mid-size and compact. I guess those will be out in two or three years at the earliest.

    Lots of hood ports all over the place. That seems to be the theme of the day for Buick. Actually, it’s nice styling overall; I like the look quite a bit, very comfortable. Buick also plans a plug-in Crossover Hybrid Electric in the next couple of years as well. Susan came over and introduced herself, we talked about the lineup for a minute before we headed back to the dome for closing this segment of the tour.

    Back to the dome for lunch!

    Ed Welburn greeted us for some remarks before lunch back in the design dome. He talked about continuing to move to four core brands and rebuilding GM to meet the needs of customers. Only at this point did I understand this history of the dome we were standing in. Since 1955 the dome had been used to present concept and production vehicles to executives (and others) and it’s hallowed ground at GM.

    Last but not least was a feature on the new Cadillac models. I actually wandered over to Clay Dean, standing nearby and chatted with him for a few minutes on what we were seeing. He walked through the features of each of the new models, which I believe were the future concepts for the CTS, the CTS Wagon and the CTS coupe. I again took special note of the CTS Sport Wagon, it looks great. Move over Clark Griswold, I want one I think.

    Chevy Volt!

    After we got a quick bite to eat, like 5 minutes to scarf down a Turkey sandwich, we loaded up again to drive over to the pre-production center for the Chevy Volt. WOW. Again, no cameras in here, lots of safety regulations, walk in a single-file line, no texting, watch for overhead stuff, etc.

    Pre-production is not like any other assembly plant. They use a technique where they do each step and then document the step that they just did, so they can move those steps over to the full production plant in the future. They take their time and sometimes have to re-design here.

    Lots of stations in the plant, very cool watching them come down the line and getting put together. Very slow process in pre-production. Near the end, we got to meet Frank Weber, he’s the executive in charge of the Volt process. We tried to nail him down on the MPG, fuel tank size, engine HP and more, but he wouldn’t give a specific answer. I guess those had to wait another 24 hours to come to the light of day.

    Off to the Proving Grounds in Milford


    We arrived after another torturous shuttle-ride, this one was about 45 minutes, and it was jarring! I did get a chance to chat with some of the other attendees. It turns out that we all have some type of social media connection, that’s the common denominator between all of us. We’re all users of Twitter and/or facebook, we’re blogers and web community organizers. Some of us have in-depth interest in the automotive world, some are hobbiest, some have no specific interest in automotive but simply made a comment on the GM blog.

    Huh, this 21st century connection struck me as very forward thinking and cool of GM. Kudos!


    Anyhow, when we arrived at the proving grounds, there were some opening comments and then Fritz Henderson jumped in and took over the show. Media was all over the place from FoxNews to Bloomberg. The Bloomberg guy was pushy and pulled away Bob Lutz when I was trying to chat with him. He tried to do the same thing when I was next in line to talk to Fritz Henderson, but some old guy behind me told him to get in line. HAHAHA, the look on his face was classic.

    Fritz Henderson took over the show here and talked about the challenges that GM has faces and the future of the company revolving around customers and quality.

    Once Fritz took the stage, he talked about quite a bit, from products, to technology to changing the culture of the company. It all has to start with the customer, that’s why we were there, we’re all potential customers, but we’re customers with bite in the social media world. Ah ha, very smart Mr. Henderson.

    Anyhow, more of the same that I heard all day, except it seemed very sincere. After the remarks concluded, I chatted with Bob Lutz for a minute (again, before he was taken aside by Mr. Rudeness himself from Bloomberg) mostly about global warming actually, funny how hard it was to side-step that. I got in line and chatted with Fritz Henderson for a good five minutes about the future of trucks in GM.

    I was trying to chat with Bob Lutz when this guy from Bloomberg pulled him away.

    Basically, things aren’t going to change much for style, but the technology will improve, hybrids are here to stay for trucks and SUVs and they are still a very important part in the recovery of GM. The Silverado/Sierra was in fact the best selling single vehicle in the US for 2008 and there is a shot that it will be up there again for 2009 (we’ll see). I just had a great chat and of course I had to take the handshake photo.

    Me and Fritz Henderson - talking Trucks and the future of different technologies.

  4. ChevyFan

    ChevyFan The Sheriff Staff Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts

    Off to Test Drive

    After the indoor event – I headed outside, got my camera for the first time all day and jumped into as many vehicles as I could. The proving grounds in Milford have quite a few different roads and courses, but notable there is a big patch of asphalt where a race-course was setup with cones (performance course maybe it was called) and then a city-course with stop signs and turn around and more.

    2010 Chevy Silverado 3500 Dually – This was my first drive of the day. As I got into it, one of the guys yelled “Hey look, the guy from Texas is going straight for the dually!” … well, I did. Nice truck, not a lot’s changed for 2010. The Duramax 6.6L handled fine, it’s quiet and the ride is great. Lots of power.

    2010 Chevy Silverado 3500 Dually

    2010 Chevy Express Van with the 2011 Duramax – Sorry guys, I don’t have a lot of details on the new Duramax, but it was in the van that I drove. Wow, very quiet for a panel van, maybe the quietest I’ve ever been in. I’ll see if I can connect with the guys and get more information on the powerplant.

    2010 Corvette Grand Sport – Ahahaha, what a nice ride. 0 to 60 in 4 seconds. I got onto the race course and put the pedal down while in sport mode. WOW. I’ve never been in a car this fast in my life. 436 HP and it was just a thrill to drive. I took her up to 80 before I had to brake.

    A tale of two Corvettes - The 2010 Corvette Grand Sport and 2010 Corvette C6.

    2010 Corvette LS3 – Still fun to drive, just didn’t have the few extras that the Grand Sport had. Still did 0 to 60 in 4 seconds as it’s the same engine really. This one was red, the GS was yellow. Man it just roars when you get on it.

    Driving the 2010 Corvette with Tadge Juechter - Cheif Engineer of the Corvette (and ZR1)

    2010 Chevy Traverse – Pretty cool. Took this around the city course. Very nice interior styling. I commented that my wife would like to drive this around to replace the Trailblazer, which is what it was designed for. Quite and lots of room.

    Sue Wilson - Crossovers vehicle line director

    2010 Chevy Equinox – Very nice. Not sure if I drove this around or just looked at it. I like the Equinox, seems roomy enough for a the mid-sized crossover category. I think my dad said he would like to buy one to tow behind the motorhome.

    2010 Chevy Avalanche – More of the same. Cab is the same at the Silverado for the most part, with the exception of the rear window and the fold down seats. Very versatile and practical to own one of these vehicles if you need to have covered that can be temperature controlled. Change for a dollar anyone?


    2010 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid – Ahh, very nice. Lots of features and gizmos, I like that. Love the heated and cooled drink holder option. Love the fact that you can get 24 MPG in heavy city driving in this thing. Very quiet when in electric.

    2010 Chevy Camaro SS – I guess it was the SS model that I drove. I didn’t care for this much, too small, not enough visibility for the road, I had a hard time seeing out of this thing, let me out please. Exterior styling is very nice, it looks good, I’ll say that. Didn’t even bother driving the other Camaro.

    2010 Cadillac SRX – Ahh, me likes this. Awesome dash, great handling, great power, very premium quality built. I love the scroll-through DIC in the center console of the dash. Hmm, maybe in the driveway oneday?


    That was all I had time for, too bad, there were some vehicles that I just didn’t even get to get into, let alone drive. What was perhaps the most cool was the fact that some stakeholder was in each vehicle (like a Marketing Manager, designer or engineer). We were in and out so often that I couldn’t figure out who was who (I’m reaching out to the GM folks to help me remember and I will post them as they come in).

    All in all, if this is the new GM, then it’s going to wake up a lot of people who only see it as Detroit. This is world-class engineering for a global audience. Hats off to GM for the event!
  5. ippielb

    ippielb Epic Member 5+ Years ROTM Winner 1000 Posts

    That looks like an amazing free trip, i really like that dash too.
  6. bry2500

    bry2500 Epic Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts

    Great write up Steve. Thanks for going out of your way and accepting the invite.LOL

    We have all benefited from your experience.
  7. Mattdtrue

    Mattdtrue Rockstar 100 Posts

    That's a once in a life tome trip there. Glad to know someone that got the chance to make it. They would have had to drag me out of that vet and away from that lady in the one pic she is smoking hot. Lol
  8. ChevyFan

    ChevyFan The Sheriff Staff Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts

    I've got more pics of the event that I will post up here later today.
  9. Z71_guy

    Z71_guy Epic Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts

    sound like it was a blast
  10. cascott325

    cascott325 Epic Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts

    very well documented steve. kudos to you and congratulations on such an amazing tour

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