Wednesday, August 12, 2009
We arrived in Detroit on Sunday evening, approaching the young man with the GM binder with a wave and a smile. We kept waving, obnoxiously, trying to get his attention and then he stepped to the side and looked behind him, assuming we were trying to flag down someone else.
Finally, Sugar pointed at him and said, "GM. We're waving at you!" He still didn't quite get it until we both stopped in front of him saying we were there for the Product & Technology event.
"Oh he said. I can usually see them coming." We laughed, wondering what was really going through his head as he watched two thirty-something women heading his way, one with a tattoo (and obnoxious sunburn), the other wish a nose-piercing.
He escorted us to the baggage claim area where he explained that another young man, Jordan, would be driving us back to our hotel. Once we found our luggage, we stepped out into the 90 degree heat and waited on the curb for the Chevy Malibu to pull up.
Jordan was a spunky guy with long hair and right away, he won us over when he handed us water bottles and offered us candy or gum. Of course, we were hoping for a real dinner, like the one we had missed at the Heritage Center, but he assured us that we could take advantage of the room service at our hotel once we finally got there.
Sugar sat in the back as we started telling our driver about how startled the other GM rep was (I think his name was Kurt) when we introduced ourselves. Jordan laughed and proceeded to listen to us as we started to ask where Greektown was and how far away the Joe Louis Arena was from our hotel.
Before he knew what was going on, Sugar pulled out her video camera to show him the footage we taped at the Del Mar Racetrack the previous day and as he drove, he watched the three minute video as I tried to disappear in my seat.
Jordan liked us (he told us as much later into the drive) because he made a detour and took us past Greektown and then back towards Comerica Park, Hockeytown, the Fox Theatre, Ford Field, and made an extra special trip so we could stop and take a picture (which turned out really blurry) of the Joe Louis Arena.
We drove past Joe Louis' arm and saw the skyline of Canada across the lake as somehow our conversation turned to his Mexican girlfriend (very passionate), drinking (he totally would've bought us drinks if he weren't on the clock) and cougars (he made a point of letting us know that he thinks older women are hot).
By the time we got to the hotel (over an hour later), it was late and we were both very hungry. Sugar was anxious to see her daughter so we both headed up to our rooms and enjoyed a quiet meal before bed.
The next day, the true adventure began as we hopped onto the bus after breakfast which too us over to the GM Technical Center. There, we were provided with stickers to cover up the cameras on our phones and were given specific instructions not to touch the vehicles unless we were told otherwise (some were clay models although they looked real).
Bob Lutz, Vice Chair of New Product Development, spoke first and he was very funny as he talked about his reverse retirement, wanting to continue to work for The New GM, thinking that with all of the excitement over the "rebuilding of our image and changing perceptions," the real fun could begin.
Lutz went on to speak about the changes that we can expect from The New GM and how his goal is to "be a privately owned company as quickly as possible." It was clear from his speech that his vision for the company, moving forward, is one that he's excited to be a part of and as a consumer, I'm anxious to watch it all unfold.
After he spoke, we split up into three groups (green, red & blue) dispersing to the many different design galleries within the building, one for each of the four brands that GM is working on reinventing (Buick, Cadillac, GMC, and Chevy). It was in the Buick gallery that we met and spoke with North American VP of Buick-Pontiac-GMC, Susan Docherty, about the Ebay partnership that has just begun in the state of California.
Lunch brought us all together in the Chevy room where we were surrounded by future models, such as the Corvette, Chevy Camaro, Chevy Spark (my personal favorite), Chevy Equinox, Chevy Traverse and where the beautiful Cadillacs were unveiled that are going to be released in the next few years.
The bus ride to the Milford Proving Grounds took about an hour, so we were very eager to finally arrived at the 4,000 acre facility. GM CEO and President Fritz Henderson spoke to us very briefly before letting us all loose to test drive the vehicles that had been introduced to us throughout the day.
I was able to speak to him on a more personal level later that afternoon on the blacktop so I used that as my opportunity to share the story of our roadtrip in the Chevy Equinox just a few weeks back and to thank him for the chance to learn more about The New GM and to be a part of the growth and future of this company.