A CHEV FAN IS BORN: Lucimara (inset) was born in the passenger seat of her family's Chevrolet Chevette pictured here. She is one of many customers honoured by GM as part of its "500 million" celebration. Image: General Motors
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – More than 500-million General Motors-branded vehicles have been built and the company is putting its customers at the centre of its accomplishment in 2015.
A half-billion vehicles through 106 years equates to billions of dollars globally in investments and infrastructure.
GM CEO Mary Barra and GM North America and Chevrolet president Alan Batey celebrated the milestone on Monday (May 4 2015) with customers and employees at the automaker's Kansas factory.
SURPRISE GIFT TO WAR VET
The automaker surprised Iraqi war veteran Trent Brining with a 2016 Chevrolet Malibu. Production of the midsize sedan will start in Kansas later in 2015.
Brining, a retired US Army corporal and Purple Heart recipient, was seriously injured in 2005 when he was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade while patrolling in Baghdad. He required 23 operatiions on his arms and legs.
VIDEO: 500-million thanks from General Motors
Brining is one of five customers who will receive a new "regionally built GM-branded vehicle", the automaker said. He's from Overland Park, Kansas, and says his treasured 2008 Chevrolet Silverado helped him meet meet his wife, Samantha. He's a finance specialist for a credit union.
Barra also announced that in the third week of May 2015 "all US-salaried, represented employees and retirees can share a one-time customer appreciation discount". The discount can be combined with other incentives.
Barra said: "During 2015 we expect to sell more than 1000 new vehicles a hour, 24 hours a day. This adds up to nearly 10-million, 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 would invest the equivalent of R2-billion at its Fairfax factory in Kansas to support production of the 2016 Malibu. One enhancement, what GM calls a "shake and rattle' booth, simulates any road condition a customer might experience and identifies sources of noise to be remedied.
Batey said: "Every element of the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu was designed to give our customers a beautiful and high-quality sedan with technology that will make their lives easier and safer. It will all come together here at Fairfax and the men and women who work here can hardly wait to get started."
In April 2015 GM announced it would invest R65-billion over three years to build vehicles in the US, including R9-billion allocated to facilities in Michigan.
GM is celebrating its customers globally and here are some milestones posted on its social media. Here's how:
• A recent retiree in Minnesota is still driving his 1957 Chevrolet bakkie – acquired from a farmer 38 years ago.
• An Opel owner from Germany used his the car to travel the world - even driving in Hawaii.
• A Brazilian woman named Lucimara was born in the passenger seat of a Chevrolet Chevette. GM said: "She continues to be a loyal customer today."
• A Chevrolet Captiva club member in Thailand used a fleet of Captivas to propose to his wife.
• A young man in China, inspired by his first vehicle, a Chevrolet Cruze, customised his sedan to match his personality. He then quit his job and started a retro-fitting business to help other customers personalise their vehicles.
Customer appreciation initiatives include auto-show tickets, exclusive owner events and Chevrolet's "best day ever" event.
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 England, Holden in Australia and Opel in Germany.
GM's first manufacturing 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 foreign enterprises.
The automaker said: "Hundreds of GM innovations have helped change the industry, including the first V8 engine, first auto transmission, first automotive crash test dummies and first air bags in a production vehicle."
NEW MALIBU SEDAN
The ninth-generation Malibu, revealed in April at the 2015 New York auto show, offers a teen-driver system that lets vparents view their youngsters' driving habits. The technology is designed to help parents teach safe driving.
Automobile crashes are the No.1 killer of teens, according to the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.