A half-billion vehicles over 106 years equals billions in commerce, payroll, investments and infrastructure in communities all over the world. For customers, these vehicles played roles in weddings, family vacations, graduations, new businesses and countless milestones along life’s journey.
Globally, more than 500 million General Motors-branded vehicles have been built – the most of any automaker by far – and the company is putting its customers at the center of the accomplishment.
GM CEO Mary Barra and GM North America and Global Chevrolet President Alan Batey celebrated the milestone Monday with customers, employees and dealers at the Fairfax (Kansas) Assembly plant, and surprised Iraqi war veteran Trent Brining with a “key” to a 2016 Chevrolet Malibu. Production of the midsize sedan begins at the plant later this year.
Brining, a retired Army corporal and Purple Heart recipient, was seriously injured in 2005 after being struck by a rocket-propelled grenade while patrolling a suburb of Baghdad, and has undergone 23 surgeries to his arms and legs. The grandson of a Purple Heart recipient, Brining is one of five customers who, within the next 48 hours, will be notified that they are receiving a new, regionally built GM-branded vehicle.
Brining is from Overland Park, Kan. and his treasured 2008 Chevrolet Silverado actually helped Brining meet his wife, Samantha. He is now a financial relationship specialist for a local credit union; they have a 17-month-old son.
Barra also announced that in the third week of May, all U.S. salaried and represented employees and retirees can share a one-time Customer Appreciation Discount. The discount can be combined with other incentives.
“During 2015, we expect to sell more than 1,000 new vehicles per hour, 24 hours per day,” said Barra. “This adds up to nearly 10 million vehicles, the most in our history. I look at this extraordinary volume as 10 million opportunities to prove what kind of company we are and to say thank you.”
Batey announced GM will invest $174 million in the Fairfax plant for new equipment and technology to support production of the 2016 Malibu and improve customer satisfaction. One enhancement – a “Shake and Rattle” booth – simulates any road condition a customer might experience – and identifies sources of noise so they can be fixed.
“Every element of the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu was designed to give our customers a beautiful and high-quality sedan with technologies that will make their lives easier and safer,” said Batey. “It will all come together here at Fairfax, and the men and women who work here can hardly wait to get started.”
Last week, GM announced it will invest $5.4 billion over three years to build the next generations of future vehicles in the U.S., including $783.5 million in three facilities in the state of Michigan and the $174 million announced today.
Since June 2009, GM has announced U.S. facility investments of approximately $16.8 billion. About $11.4 billion of that has come since the 2011 UAW-GM National Agreement. In total, these investments have created 3,650 new jobs and secured the positions of approximately 20,700 others.
Globally since 2009, GM has announced facility investments totaling about $36.7 billion. This includes the U.S. facility investments plus $5.75 billion in Mexico, $1.5 billion in Canada and $12.7 billion in other global regions outside GM North America.
Customers are king
Previews of customer milestones around the world were shared in Fairfax on Monday and will live on GM brands’ social and digital channels. Among them:
- A recent retiree in Minnesota still driving his 1957 Chevrolet pickup truck – acquired from a farmer 38 years ago for $75
- An Opel owner from Germany whose car traveled extensively with her and her husband – including to Hawaii
- A Brazilian woman born in the passenger seat of a Chevrolet Chevette; she continues to be a loyal customer today
- A Chevrolet Captiva club member in Thailand who used a fleet of Captivas to propose to his now-wife
- A young man in China so inspired by his first vehicle – a Chevrolet Cruze – that he customized it to match his personality, then quit his job and started a retrofitting business to help other customers personalize their rides.
Ongoing customer appreciation initiatives have included free auto show tickets, exclusive owner events, surprise-and-delight moments from Chevrolet’s “Best Day Ever” blitz in April and more. In addition, GM employees are being encouraged to use customized notes to thank customers globally.
GM’s own milestones
Founded in 1908 and reborn in 2009, GM’s global presence dates to the early 20th Century when Sun Yat-sen, the first president of China, and Pu Yi, the last emperor, took their first automobile ride in a 1912 Buick. By 1931, GM owned Vauxhall in the United Kingdom, Holden in Australia and Opel in Germany.
GM’s first manufacturing joint venture with SAIC in China – Shanghai GM – began in 1997. China is now GM’s largest market, where it has 11 joint ventures and two wholly owned foreign enterprises.
Hundreds of GM innovations have helped change the industry, including the first V-8 engine, first automatic transmission, first automotive crash test dummies and first air bags in a production vehicle.
The ninth-generation Malibu, revealed last month at the New York International Auto Show offers an available, industry-first Teen Driver feature, a built-in system that let parents view on a display how their teen drove the vehicle.
The technology is designed to help parents teach safe driving habits. Automobile crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Fuel economy ranks high among midsize sedan buyers. The new Malibu’s lighter curb weight and an available, all-new hybrid powertrain, which shares Chevrolet’s Voltec technology, will help deliver GM-estimated combined city-highway fuel economy of 48 mpg – the highest in the segment.