September 15, 2008


The cars. The people. The plants. 100 years of General Motors throughout the Lansing area



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September 15, 2008


From the small and storied beginning of the Olds Motor Works factory to Online Extra the sprawling For an interLansing Car active map of Assembly GM’s local operation to the operations and state-of-the-art past coverage of its first Lansing Delta 100 years, go to Township assembly plant, GM has left an indelible mark on the Lansing area.

As General Motors Corp. marks its 100th anniversary, we take a look at the company’s century in Lansing — its plants, its cars and the people who made it happen.

Thousands of people have kept GM’s local operations running the past Online 100 years. And Extra thousands more For more memories of have been GM, go to affected in some way by the automaker’s local presence. Read the thoughts of some of them.

GM has rolled plenty of vehicles off Lansing-area assembly lines Online Extra in the past F o r a n century. Some interactive contained timeline of groundbreaking vehicles made in features, others Lansing, go to were big sellers. We take a look at 10 of the more notable vehicles.


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(aka Plant 6, Fisher Body)
In the early days of the auto industry, executives joined, left and started companies with dizzying frequency. Just as Lansing’s R.E. Olds formed Olds Motor Works and left it in 1904 to start REO Motor Co., GM founder Billy Durant left his company to found Durant Motor Works. Durant’s second auto company built a plant in Lansing in 1922, but the company failed during the Great Depression of the 1930s. GM bought the factory in 1935 and moved its area Fisher Body operations to the site. Workers at the plant made car bodies that were shipped about a mile away to the assembly site to the south. GM worker Alex Hernandez grew up a block from the factory where his father worked. Sometimes, he’d bring lunch to the factory for his father. “I’m going to make Oldsmobiles there, just like my father,” he promised himself — and he did. But the plant’s long history came to an end in 2005. As GM’s Lansing Delta Township plant was being raised, the plant on Verlinden Avenue was being torn down.

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When the Lansing Car Assembly plant closed in 2005, the site at the junction of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and the Grand River was the longest continually operating car assembly operation in North America. Cars had been put together on the site for 104 years. The place had been part of the state fairgrounds at the turn of the 20th century. But when a fire in Detroit destroyed R.E. Olds’ factory there, business leaders in Lansing put their heads together to devise a way to lure Olds back to mid-Michigan. They offered him a portion of the fairgrounds at a deep discount, and he accepted the offer. The deed to Olds was dated July 3, 1901. General Motors Corp. took over the plant when it bought Olds Motor Works in 1908. The factory saw successive generations of car

classics come rolling down its assembly line: the Curved Dash Olds in its earliest years, the short-lived but premium luxury Viking in 1929 and 1930, the muscle cars of the 1960s and 1970s. Generations of Lansing-area workers joined the work force here and retired from the plant. James Walkinshaw, who would go on to write “Setting the Pace,” the definitive history of Oldsmobile with co-author Helen Earley, remembers his first day on the job inside the massive factory. “It was the hugest place I’d ever seen,” he said. General Motors considered scrapping the plant and leaving Lansing in 1997, but a community effort involving city, community and labor leaders persuaded the carmaker to stay. Two new plants would be built — Lansing Grand River and Lansing Delta Township — but LCA would be razed. Demolition started in late 2005.

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a five- or seven-passenger touring model and a two-passenger roadster. The car took its name from the 20th Century Limited, a train that ran between Albany, N.Y., and New York City. A 1909 painting by William Hardner Foster that showed an Oldsmobile Limited racing that train was entitled “Setting the Pace,” the name that later would be used for the comprehensive history of Oldsmobile written by Helen Earley and James Walkinshaw, Lansing-area residents and General Motors Corp. retirees.

The Oldsmobile Limited Touring car, made in the 1910 to 1912 model years, was never a financial success. But it did succeed in setting a new standard for style. In its day, the car cost a staggering $5,000 — the equivalent of $109,972 in today’s dollars. It’s easy to see why this car, though pretty to look at, never became a big seller. Fewer than 700 of the top-of-the-line cars were made. There were several variants and body styles, including a seven-passenger limo,



September 15, 2008

When the 1970s oil crisis hit home, GM sought ways to adapt to a world of higher gas prices and limited supply. One of its ideas, pushed forward by its Lansing-based Oldsmobile division, was to create diesel counterparts of its gasoline engines. But the result — an engine converted from a standard gasoline model — had problems. Water leaked into the fuel system of some engines, and head gasket seals frequently broke. In 1982, af ter four years of production, GM abandoned the diesel engine in Delta Township. The Quad-4 engine came next in 1987, followed by the EcoTec engine in 2001 . However, GM idled the plant the same year,

selling it five years later to Ryder Logistics, which now supplies GM’s Lansing Delta Township Assembly plant.

While not as glamorous as its car-assembling brethren, GM’s parts warehouse in Delta Township, with its 240 workers, is distinctive. It is the only parts warehouse in GM’s operation that specializes in packing and shipping components that are in low demand — either because a model is new and few repairs are needed, or a vehicle is very old. And it’s a place where many GM workers have hoped to end up. Warehouse work often is seen as less physically demanding and, therefore, easier on older workers near retirement age. But that preference may change, as GM’s new two-tier wage system for hourly workers has reclassified warehouse jobs. They’re now considered “noncore production jobs,” which pay roughly $14 an hour for new workers, about half what an assembly line worker earns. When GM’s Lansing Grand River plant started building Cadillacs in 2001, it was the culmination of a community effort to convince the automaker to stay in Lansing. In 1997, GM had warned then-Mayor David Hollister that it planned to pull up stakes in Lansing. Hollister, community boosters, union leaders and local government officials pulled together to persuade the carmaker to stay. In the process, GM decided to build two new assembly plants to replace the aging Lansing Car Assembly complex. “The Grand River plant is probably the most state-of the-art plant in the entire world for the automotive industry,” said David Cole, director of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, as the plant prepared to open. “It will, I think, be a model for the future.” And it was. Students, auto industry professionals and people who study manufacturing in other industries flocked to the plant to see how GM was building cars the new way. The Grand River plant was the first in North America to pioneer GM’s new Global Manufacturing System, a way of making cars that gives hourly workers more authority over their work sites. The Lansing Grand River plant and its approximately 1,800 workers currently build three Cadillac models — the CTS, STS and SRX. While the SRX is expected to be eliminated, GM plans to add station wagon and coupe versions of the CTS.


BECKY SHINK/Lansing State Journal file photo

Moving down the line: A Cadillac SRX moves down the line at GM’s Lansing Grand River plant. The facility and its 1,800 workers currently build three Cadillac models.

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On the eve of the Great Depression, Oldsmobile again came out with a show-stopping luxury vehicle. The Oldsmobile Viking debuted in 1929. In its two-year run, just 8,003 were made. The top-end Viking came with an $1,855 price tag — or $22,266 in today’s dollars. When the stock market crashed on Oct. 29, 1929, most Americans lost the will — and the ability — to buy luxury items, and the Viking stalled. But the car remains an example of the splendor that Oldsmobile once represented.



Nestled at the side of Lansing Delta Township is the Lansing Regional Stamping plant, a metal-stamping facility where parts are created for cars made at Lansing Grand River and Lansing Delta Township. The 700,000-square-foot plant with a $300 million price tag opened in March 2003. The plant is connected by a massive conveyer belt to the neighboring Lansing Delta Township plant, allowing parts stamped at the facility to be shipped to the car assembly area without the help of a truck or forklif t. Unlike the plant it replaced, the Lansing Metal Center, Lansing Regional Stamping runs with a staff of just 230 workers, compared to about 1, 200 at the Metal Center in the years before it closed.

September 15, 2008

The second modern assembly plant GM opened locally — the Lansing Delta Township assembly plant — was designed to push the production envelope further. The plant, which opened in November 2006, is the only car plant in the world to be LEED gold certified, a designation given to only the most environmentally friendly plants. Skylights at the factory reduce the need for lighting, rain water functions as water for bathrooms, and the roof was painted white to deflect the sun’s rays and reduce the need for air conditioning. The assembly line is equally stateof-the-art, and is the first in North America to fully incorporate GM’s Global Manufacturing System. The 2,300 workers at the factory make the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook — crossover vehicles that are touted by GM as among its top sellers. “We are creating a new chapter in Lansing history at (Lansing Delta Township),” plant manager Randy Thayer said as the plant prepared to open. “Many organizations don’t like to talk about their history, but in Lansing, our history is shaping the future. Our past performance was a key factor in GM deciding to put this plant in Lansing.”

Proud of their product: Workers surround the first test Saturn Outlook on May 24, 2006, for a plant souvenir picture at the GM Lansing Delta Township plant. Just a small detail of the many workers who surrounded the vehicle are shown. At top, Dennis Rodgers looks for surface defects during quality inspection at the Lansing Regional Stamping Plant in 2004.
ROD SANFORD Lansing State Journal file photo

When World War II ended, Americans resumed their love affair with the automobile. Production had ground to a halt during the war, with Lansing’s car factories transformed into ammunition plants. But GM restarted car production. In Lansing, it rolled out the first Oldsmobile 88 for the 1949 model year. Its relatively small and light body and powerful engine made it a precursor to the muscle cars. The car’s nickname, the “Rocket 88,” referred to the new engine. Made in Lansing, the Rocket engine (originally named the Kettering engine after GM’s chief engineer), was the first mass-produced overhead valve V-8 engine. It quickly became a hit with car enthusiasts. The Rocket 88 was immortalized in 1951 when Ike Turner recorded what many music historians consider the first rock ’n’ roll song to be recorded — “Rocket 88,” which extolled the powerful car.


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September 15, 2008



ROD SANFORD/Lansing State Journal file photo

Coming down: A large “M” from the word Oldsmobile is lowered onto a truck on Dec. 27, 2006, as workers remove the distinctive Oldsmobile lettering from the top of the former Oldsmobile headquarters near downtown Lansing.

A small monument at the junction of Kalamazoo and River streets is all that remains of the site where the first car produced in Lansing was made. Here, at the P.F. Olds & Son factory, R.E. Olds made his first horseless contrivance in 1887. Family members said that it was Olds’ loathing of horses that led him to experiment with automobiles in the first place. It was Olds’ job to tend the horses owned by the family, and he found the work dirty and unpleasant. Olds would go on to create a gasoline-powered vehicle in 1897, and then to form Olds Motor Works. He was the first to create an auto assembly line, a system in which cars were pushed around the plant on wheeled carts. Olds left Olds Motor Works in 1904 and founded REO Motor Co. a year later. His first company would by bought by the fledgling General Motors Co. in 1908.

The building that towers over the Lansing Grand River plant once held the offices of GM’s Oldsmobile division. Oldsmobile is gone now, and its former headquarters soon will be gone, too. But for more than 40 years, starting in 1966, the white marble building symbolized Lansing’s history and its manufacturing strength. Large letters on the side of the building proclaimed OLDSMOBILE to the town where the brand was born. Those letters now are housed at the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum. GM announced in 1997 that it would move the Olds headquarters to Detroit, then shut down the division altogether in 2004. The former headquarters now awaits demolition.

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First introduced as an option package on the 1964 Oldsmobile Cutlass and F-85, the Cutlass 442 became a model in its own right four years later. In 1966, the car was clocked going from 0 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds by Car and Driver magazine. Such reviews bumped up the 442’s popularity. The car got another boost when Oldsmobile worked with Hurst Performance Research Corp. to put out the Hurst/Olds 442 in 1968.



By 1970, the year the 442 was the Indianapolis 500 pace car, Motor Trend named the car “the most identifiable super car in the GM house.” It was popular in movie houses, too. The 442 appeared in many films and television shows, including Sylvester Stallone’s “Demolition Man.” Mark Wahlberg drove a 442 in the film “Four Brothers.” In song, the 442 was mentioned in Primus’ “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver.”


September 15, 2008


BECKY SHINK/Lansing State Journal file photo

Unique designs: The last SSR rolled off the line at the Lansing Craft Centre in 2006. The facility now is being torn down. GM made military ammunition at the facility during World War II and converted it to a foundry operation after the war.
The land that would one day become GM’s specialty car assembly plant was once known as Bogus Swamp — because the money minted in that wetland by counterfeiters was fake. But some of the cars that GM later would assemble at the site would take on a real luster. The first step toward legitimacy for the site came in 1919, when the Ryan Bohn Foundry was built. The site passed through several hands before Driggs Aircraft Co. set up shop in 1927, but it went out of business when the only plane it ever built crashed on its maiden voyage. Lansing auto legend R.E. Olds bought the site in 1930, only to sell it to GM about 10 years later. The Detroit carmaker made military ammunition at the facility during World War II and converted it to a foundry operation after the war. In 1988, GM decided building cars was a better use for what would be called the Lansing Craft Centre. It would be the only GM plant designed to make smaller numbers of unique or specialty vehicles. Some of GM’s more unique vehicles were made there — including the EV1, the automaker’s first experiment with electric cars that were produced from 1996 to 1999, and the Chevrolet SSR, built from 2003 until the plant closed in 2006. The facility now is being torn down.

Originally called the Jet Plant, GM built the large metal stamping factory on Saginaw Street in 1952 to make jet parts during the Korean War. After the conflict, the plant was transformed into a stamping operation, where metal parts for cars made in Lansing and elsewhere were cut out of sheets of metal. But in its early days, the plant stood on rural land, not suburban sprawl. Al Cooper, who retired from GM in 2006, spent many of his 60 years with GM working at the plant. He was nearly 83 when he retired and was GM’s longest-serving employee in Michigan when he did. “We had deer run through the plant once or twice,” Cooper said of the plant’s early days. But the plant’s fate was decided when GM made plans to update its Lansing operations. The two new assembly plants — Lansing Delta Township and Lansing Grand River — needed a new stamping plant of their own. That plant would be Lansing Regional Stamping. GM began phasing out work at the plant a year before it was finally shuttered. The plant’s work force dwindled from 1,200 to fewer than 200 when it ended production in 2006. The plant is being demolished.

The two-door Toronado coupe, made from 1966 to 1992, was the first front-wheel-drive car made in the United States since 1937. At first, the car had doubters. The automotive press wondered how well the front-wheel-drive would work, while leaders at the Cadillac division rebuffed Oldsmobile’s request to work with them on the new technology. Test versions of the Toronado logged more than 1 million miles to prove its safety and reliability. According to the book “Setting the Pace,” trial lawyers eagerly anticipated the car’s release because they thought there would be many accident and product failure lawsuits. But that didn’t happen. The Toronado won Car of the Year from Motor Trend magazine the first year off the production line. The Toronado would become one of Oldsmobile’s enduring models, remaining in production for 26 years.


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September 15, 2008

Former Lansing mayor/champion of GM in Lansing
“My most vivid memory was a visit by Ed Donovan, (General Motors’ government relations official), early in my term as mayor. It was 1995, and he said, ‘I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that we will be celebrating the 100th birthday of Oldsmobile, and we’re going to launch the Alero.’ And the Alero would be made in Lansing. “ T h a t wa s good news. “( Then) I said, ‘What’s the bad news?’ “He said, ‘The bad news is when this series of cars completes its cycle, ... we are going to close the plants in Lansing and there will be no product for Lansing af ter that at all.’ “That was a stunning and shocking announcement. That then led to the Keep GM effort t h a t we organized locally to convince General Motors not to leave midMichigan but to build new plants here. “That led then to about a five- to six-year effort that led to the creation of the Grand River plant and later the Delta ( Township) plant.”

Delta Township supervisor
When Delta Township Supervisor Joe Drolett thinks of his childhood memories of GM, it’s sounds that come to mind: the clanking in the forge plant at night, the creaking trains lined up along Clare Street. Drolett grew up a stone’s throw from the Verlinden plant, but he didn’t take a job there. GM would become a major part of his work life anyhow. Once GM announced its intention to build the Lansing Grand River assembly plant near downtown Lansing, the automaker turned its attention to the township Drolett supervises. He met weekly with GM as the company started to buy land where Lansing Delta Township assembly plant now stands. But he had to keep it all a secret until GM was ready to go public. “That wasn’t easy,” Drolett said. “We knew history was being created.”

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The Grand Am’s history runs in stops and starts. It debuted as a mid-size car, made from 1973 to 1975 at GM’s plant in Pontiac. It was revived from 1978 to 1980 as a limited-run production that offered new features, such as power windows, locks and seats. It also was made in Pontiac. It wasn’t until the third generation of the Grand Am in 1984 that the model really took off. Pontiac’s best-selling vehicle would be made in Lansing. It also would be one of the first non-Oldsmobile products made by GM’s Lansing workers.



The Grand Am would receive two updates during its local run. When production at Lansing Car Assembly began to falter as Oldsmobile was discontinued and GM prepared to move production to the new Lansing Delta Township plant, it was the Grand Am, along with the Chevrolet Classic, that kept workers on the job. Despite the Grand Am’s long-running success, GM opted to discontinue the model in 2005. It was replaced with the Pontiac G6 and production was shifted out of Lansing.

GM retiree
Gary Casteel, 64, saw the inside of several Lansing-area GM plants in his time at the automaker, and he worked both hourly and salaried jobs. But of all the projects on which he worked, one in particular stands out in his memory: the EV1. “I wonder where we’d be now if GM had built on what we had with the EV1,” Casteel said. GM scrapped the project, but not all of the cars were destroyed. Some were donated to universities. His grandson, Nick, found one at Northern Michigan University and got to study how the car worked.

September 15, 2008


ROD SANFORD/Lansing State Journal file photo

Boyhood dream come true: Alex Hernandez grew up near the Fisher Body plant, dreaming he’d like to work there, just like his dad. Hernandez did grow up to build GM cars in Lansing. Above, he’s reflected in the chrome of a new Saturn Outlook on display in 2006 at the Lansing Delta Township plant.

BECKY SHINK/State Journal

GM memorabilia : Gary Casteel keeps GM memorabilia, including a light given to him by his son and grandson. Casteel retired from GM in 1997.

“When I was 8 years old, I already made my mind (up) that I wanted to work at Fisher Body. My father did — he walked to work every day, rain, snow, wind and sunshine. It didn’t matter, he walked. We had one car (a station wagon) — that was all we needed. Not bad for a family of eight. “I grew up right by the plant. Our house

was down the street. When I was at school, playing at the playground, riding my bike or doing my paper route, the plant was always in my sight. “I have the same friends since second grade. I said to both of them when we were playing on the playground by the plant: ‘I’m going to work there someday and build cars like my father.’

“My friends were Dan Jackson and Steve Woodward. Dan said to me: ‘Why do you want to work there for? You’re nuts.’ “We laugh about it now, but I went in there anyway, and my dream came true.”

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Before the Chevrolet Volt, GM’s high-profile electric vehicle due to hit showrooms in 2010, came the EV1. The first all-electric car from a major manufacturer was developed because California had enacted a “Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate,” requiring the largest automakers to make pollution-free vehicles available. GM responded with an all-electric car in the mid-1990s but took a unique marketing path. The EV1 was only available for lease. Many of the takers were environmental activists, including actor Ed Begley Jr.

For production of the niche vehicle, GM turned to the Lansing Craft Centre. Unlike all other GM assembly plants, the facility was designed specifically to make low-volume vehicles. That’s what the EV1 was, with fewer than 1,200 of them made in its three-year production run from 1996 to 1999. Despite an enthusiastic following and a list of people waiting for a new generation of the car, GM pulled the plug on the EV1 in 2003. Many with leases asked to buy their EV1s, but GM required all of the cars to be returned.


GM worker — Lansing Delta Township

In his 26 years at General Motors, it isn’t the cars he helped build that give Don Willems the most pride. Willems, a vehicle purchasing assistant coordinator in the plant where the Buick Enclave, Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia are made, finds the most satisfaction for the role he played in setting up the Emergency Response Team. The first responder group rushes to the scene of an accident or problem in the

plant. Because the factory is tucked away in farm country, plant workers can respond to a co-worker in need before an ambulance can arrive, for example. The team originated in the old Fisher Body plant, a part of the Lansing Car Assembly plant that is now torn down. But a new team was established when the plant in Delta Township opened two years ago. “GM is now a benchmark for safety, but

it didn’t used to be that way,” Willems said. The team that Willems helped start was one of the first of its kind in the GM plant system. Now, the national labor agreement between GM and the United Auto Workers union has language calling for the establishment of emergency response teams.

September 15, 2008

Assistant plant manager, Lansing Delta Township
Fif teen years ago, Betty Romsek wasn’t having an easy first week on her new job. Just appointed the superintendent of production at Lansing Metal Center, a General Motors stamping plant on Saginaw Street, Romsek was unsure of why she was selected for the post. She didn’t know the people at the plant. She didn’t have day-to-day experience working with United Auto Workers union representatives. She was the first woman to hold such a high role at the plant, and she didn’t know if anyone there really wanted her around. That was day one. On day two, she got a positive pregnancy test for her first child. “I was afraid. Really afraid,” Romsek said. She laughs about it now. These days, Romsek feels at home in a manufacturing plant, and the people who work there are like a second family. “ You have to trust others. They’re going to help you,” she said of the people with whom she works. The Lansing Metal Center is now closed and in the process of being demolished, but Romsek hasn’t lef t town. She is now the assistant plant manager at Lansing Delta Township.

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When GM opened its Lansing Grand River plant in 2001, workers had more than new equipment to work with — they also had a brand new Cadillac model. The CTS was edgy — literally. Its crisp lines indicated that Cadillac was about to turn in a new direction. The CTS quickly proved to be a winner. The entry-level luxury sedan was featured in a chase scene in “Matrix Reloaded” — the second of a trio of “Matrix” sci-fi movies starring Keanu Reeves. It also was at the forefront of what has been dubbed the “Cadillac

Renaissance.” A high-powered CTS-V version of the car also was introduced, pushing the image of Cadillac away from the golf club crowd and toward younger generations. The enthusiasm for the CTS has led to creation of new variants based on the original sedan body. Next year, Lansing Grand River’s 1,800 workers will begin making two-door coupe CTSes as well as a wagon version of the car. There were 57,029 CTSes sold last year. This year, the CTS is on track to beat last year’s sales.


September 15, 2008

General Motors quality control engineer
Hope Morris was one of the first women engineers in her department when she started work 29 years ago af ter earning a degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University. She was one of only 10 women in her graduating class of 100, so she knew she would be in the minority at her new job. Still, her welcome wasn’t what she might have hoped. “On the very first day, one of the men took me aside and said, ‘I don’t think you’re going to make it, and you’re going to have to prove yourself.’ ” That she did. Morris became close friends with that early critic, who has since retired. She thinks of him every day on her hire-in date. “I call him every year on my anniversary and say, ‘I’m still here, and you’re not,’ ” Morris said with a laugh.

President, United Auto Workers Local 602
Brian Fredline is as proud a union man as they come. But Fredline’s first goal didn’t involve being a union member. Fredline, who grew up in Lansing, wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a manager at one of the General Motors plants in his hometown. He studied construction management and landed a job at GM — on the hourly side. He worked for several years in a parts warehouse, still with the goal of becoming a salaried worker, until he was transferred to the Lansing Craf t Centre in 1998. Suddenly, his perception changed. “I saw how working on the line could be back-breaking work,” he said. “I got passionate about serving the membership. About serving their needs, rather than managing their needs.” Fredline told his father that he wanted to become an active union man, and his father took the news in stride, Fredline said. “My dad was one of the finest men who ever walked the planet,” Fredline said. “He understood completely.”

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Part of the problem was price. With a price tag topping $42,000, some would-be buyers backed away. Even so, the SSR generated a hard-core following. Self-proclaimed SSR fanatics held get-togethers on the lawn of the Craft Centre and took tours of the plant. But that wasn’t enough to save the vehicle. Faltering sales led to several months of layoffs at the Craft Centre in 2005, and both the plant and the vehicle were killed off the following year.

Before it was released in 2003, the development of the Chevrolet SSR drew intense interest from car enthusiasts who eagerly anticipated the retro-themed roadster. But it wasn’t a sales winner. Workers at the Lansing Craft Centre built the SSR. And it had a promising start — the SSR was the pace car at the 2003 Indianapolis 500. But the enthusiasm among diehard fans didn’t translate into mass sales, which fell from 9,648 vehicles in 2004 to 3,803 in 2006, the year it went out of production.


September 15, 2008

GM worker
With the oil embargo wreaking havoc on the American car industry in the 1970s, John Anthony saw layoffs heading his way. Rather than fighting it, he volunteered to be laid off. But it wasn’t time off or relaxation Anthony was af ter. “I wanted to get involved with the skilled trades,” Anthony said of the electricians, millwrights and other specialty jobs at the factory. Anthony used his time off to learn three trades, learning electrical work, millwright skills and machine repair. By the time GM was ready to start hiring in 1984, Anthony was ready to go. Not everyone in his family felt the same. Anthony said he has relatives who lef t GM over the years to follow opportunities at other companies. Inevitably, he said, they all said the same thing: “I wish I had stayed at GM.” Anthony has no regrets. “I’m glad I stuck it out,” he said.

Lansing mayor
“My dad retired from General Motors. General Motors has been a part of my family from Day One. Lansing’s history is interwoven with the history of General Motors. “I think that what General Motors has done in the last decade, in the last few years, in terms of reinventing itself ... it’s phenomenal. They’ve been rising to the challenge. “I still wonder at how they could produce the Motor Trend Car of the Year here in Lansing amidst all this turmoil in the auto industry. That’s an incredible, singular achievement that we should all be proud of. “This is a company that has proven itself. When you can create the product they’re creating in this challenging environment, I say they’re going to make it and they’re going to make it with flying colors. “We’ve got the latest, greatest plants right here in Michigan. Lansing can be proud of its connection.”

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After years of speculation about what vehicles would be made at the new Lansing Delta Township plant, GM gave its answer at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. There, it released the concept version of the Buick Enclave crossover. Elegance would be the emphasis of its styling. With smooth, graceful lines, the Enclave won the hearts of automotive reviewers. And inside the crossover, GM took care to make the ride as quiet as possible, something that would be key in winning over buyers from brands such as Lexus and Infiniti. It worked. Reviewers fawned over the vehicle once it was put into production in April 2007. And car buyers added themselves to lists, sometimes waiting for months to get their ideal Enclave delivered. There were 29,286 of them sold last year. The success of the Enclave also led its interior designer, Lansing native Michael Burton, to be featured in ads for the crossover.



September 15, 2008

100+ years of GM in the Lansing area

If you were living in Lansing around the beginning of the 20th century, you had a front-row seat to the automotive revolution. Ransom E. Olds began making his cars here in 1897. He left for Detroit soon after to begin producing cars in the world’s first specially built automotive factory. A fire soon brought him back to his hometown. Businessmen in Lansing enticed him to return, granting him the state fairgrounds on the Grand River in downtown Lansing as a new manufacturing site. What began on that site grew into the Olds Motor Works. That was just the start. In November 1908, Billy Durant, founder of Buick Motor Co., bought Olds. He would go on to quickly add several other rivals to build General Motors Corp. into a Detroit carmaking powerhouse. Over the past 100 years, GM added many manufacturing locations in the Lansing area. The newest, the Lansing Delta Township assembly plant, started making crossovers a little more than a year ago. It now makes three models — the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook. Lansing Township.
w March 2006: GM says it will offer buyouts and early

GM put area on map as ‘Car Capital’

w 1992 : Buick-Oldsmobile-Cadillac disappears as a

w 1897: Ransom E. Olds and Lansing businesspeople

start the Olds Motor Vehicle Co. and build four cars. w 1899: Olds’ second company, Olds Motor Works, moves to Detroit. w 1901: Detroit plants are destroyed by fire, and Olds returns to Lansing. w 1908: Newly formed General Motors Corp. buys Olds Motor Works. w 1927-29: Oldsmobile employment skyrockets to 7,000, with 12 new buildings. w 1935: 1 millionth Olds is built. w 1942-45: Car production stops, and Olds workers make equipment for World War II. w 1950 : R.E. Olds dies. w 1958: Olds becomes the nation’s fourth-largest automaker. w 1965: Employment tops 15,000 in Lansing. w 1978: With the dedication of a new Cutlass plant, Oldsmobile’s Lansing operations become North America’s largest passenger car assembly complex. w 1979: Engine plant opens in Delta Township. Total GM employment tops 23,000. w 1984: GM reorganizes; Oldsmobile becomes a sales and marketing division in the Buick-OldsmobileCadillac Group.

GM name. Lansing factories become part of the Lansing Automotive Division, which makes its home offices in the city. w 1996: GM announces Olds headquarters operations will move to Detroit. w 1997: Olds celebrates its 100th anniversary. w 1998: Olds moves from Lansing to Detroit. w Feb. 2000 : GM announces new metal stamping and assembly plants in Delta Township. w June 2001: Production at the engine plant ends. w November 2001: First Cadillac made at new Lansing Grand River plant. w March 2003 : Delta Township stamping plant opens. w March 2004: Construction on Lansing Delta Township assembly plant begins. w April 2004: Last Oldsmobile rolls off the line. w March 2005: GM announces closing of Lansing Car Assembly. w November 2005: GM says it will close several factories nationwide in a cost-cutting move, including the Craft Centre and Metal Center in

retirement packages to its workers. Production stops at the Craft Centre. w November 2006: The first vehicles destined for dealers roll off the line at the Lansing Delta Township assembly plant. The GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook crossovers win rave reviews. Production ends at the Metal Center. w April 2007: The Buick Enclave joins the lineup at the Lansing Delta Township plant. w Summer 2007: A redesigned Cadillac CTS hits dealer showrooms. w September 2007: GM union workers go on strike amid contract talks. GM and the UAW reach an agreement two days later. w October 2007: The new UAW-GM contract is ratified. Among the provisions: a trust fund for health care benefits and a two-tiered wage system. w April 2008: UAW Local 602 workers go on strike in a dispute over local issues. The strike is settled a month later.


General Motors Corp. helped put greater Lansing on the map as the “Car Capital of the World.” Its 100-year legacy has done more than simply shape the vehicle landscape of America, or even the physical landscape of our region. GM is inextricably linked with the health of our local economy, has been for the past century and will continue to be long into the future. Many of the capital-area locals grew up in GM families. Whether it was grandpa, dad, aunt, uncle or sibling, many of us were raised with at least a bit of GM’s core values of hard work, heritage and innovation. We’ve watched the DOUG auto landscape in Mich- STITES igan, and Lansing, transform. Manufacturing jobs President and CEO, Capital have been lost, companies have closed and un- Area Michigan Works employment has risen. Yet, according to “Manu- facturing — Past, Present and Future,” each autoworker is able to produce more cars than ever. As companies and communities have grappled with the changes in the automotive industry, greater Lansing was fortunate to become home to two state-of-the-art GM plants with thousands of workers a supplier network. This has helped insulate the greater Lansing economy from job losses more severe in the rest of the state. GM’s employment will continue to change as it looks to bring in the next generation of innovators, engineers, scientists and researchers. As society shifts from the auto plants of a century ago to advanced manufacturing, GM will continue to be significant to our region, and our families. Capital Area Michigan Works is proud to have partnered with GM through our Capital Area Manufacturing Council, our board of directors, promoting positive economic messages in the community and in many more ways. Congratulations, GM, on 100 years of contributions to greater Lansing — and the world.

Lansing State Journal • |


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