GM plant opened to visitors as part of thank you gesture

Area residents tour the General Motors Fairfax Assembly Plant Thursday as part of the plant's open house event. The event was staged as a way for GM to say "thank you" to the community. Enlarge photo

September 22, 2011

Being at the General Motors Fairfax Assembly Plant Thursday brought back fond memories for Joe Wells of Liberty, Mo.

“I used to take flying lessons here when this was Fairfax Airport,” Wells said, noting that, while he never did receive his pilot’s license, those days back in about 1969 or 1970 were “a lot of fun.”

“I love to fly,” he added.

Flying was the focus of Thursday’s GM Fairfax Open House, as well — or the focus, at least, was on seeing separate pieces of metal and machinery develop into one sleek unit ready to fly down the highway.

Area residents were given a rare glimpse of the massive production of Chevrolet Malibu and Buick LaCrosse vehicles going on everyday at the Fairfax plant as part of the GM- and UAW Local 31-sponsored event that included tours of the plant and test drives of some of the latest models of GM cars being produced.

The open house in Kansas City, Kan., is one of 54 open houses GM is playing host to — one at each of its 54 U.S. facilities — over the course of the year as part of its effort to thank the American public for its support and to showcase GM employees and new products, according to a press announcement released prior to the event.

Self-led tours went on throughout the day, beginning at the trim shop, where all the interior elements of a car (battery, wiring, engine, seats, etc.) are placed inside the car body, and ending at the area of the Fairfax plant known as the “marriage.” This is the final stage of the manufacturing process, where the assembled car is “married” to its underbody.

While the tour allowed participants to watch the manufacturing process in action, signs relating tidbits of information were also placed along the tour path. Information on the signs included that 5,268 seats are installed in cars every day at the Fairfax plant — enough seats, if placed side by side, to stretch the length of 36 football fields. Additionally, 1,293 cars are produced each day by the more than 2,000 employees who work at the plant.

Participants also were given the opportunity to sit in an actual fork truck, which is the truck used to deliver materials when needed to different areas of the plant. And musical entertainment was provided by the “Dancing Robots,” which were two robotic machines that moved in time to pop songs.

“Oh, I liked it. Very interesting,” said Don Cook of Piper, who had brought his 4-year-old grandson, Isaac Cook, along with him. He added that Isaac was more of a “truck man” than a car man. “If it had been trucks, he would have liked it a lot better.”

Attractions took place outside of the plant, as well, as attendees were given the opportunity to test drive some of GM’s latest models of cars, including the Chevrolet Volt and the Camaro Convertible.

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