Talk about star power.
Inside General Motor’s Assembly Plant on a recent
afternoon, workers were getting the new XLR – average cost of
which will be $70,000 – ready for production. Along for the
ride was country music star Aaron Tippin, who was in town
taping a segment for a special “Made in America” show.
While Tippin was at the plant to tape a segment about the
Corvette, the sleek new XLR Cadillac Luxury Roadster was
stealing the show as GM’s next big hit.
While some sightings of the two-seat roadster have been
reported – one with a “dealer tag” on it was parked outside
the University Plaza Hotel on Sunday – they are not yet being
produced for sale, according to plant spokeswoman Michelle
Bunker. Target date for production-for-sale cars is the end of
Along with being test driven, the new car has been treated
like a real made-in-Hollywood product. A film crew spent last
week documenting the step-by-step process in the XLR’s
production – from individual parts being applied, to the final
coat of paint in the body shop.
“We’re doing this in 3-D – just like George Lucas made his
last ‘Star Wars’ movie,” said producer Oliver Darrow of
O’Brien’s Agency out of Detroit.
The agency was hired by GM’s Cadillac division to put
together a top-notch film that will serve as a tool for GM
sales associates to become familiar with the new car and for
dealers to understand what goes into production. A selective
number of sales associates are being invited to spend a couple
of days on raceways in Phoenix, Las Vegas and St. Louis to try
out the rookie car.
“They are going to experience everything that has to do
with the vehicles, including how it compares to competitors so
they can understand the vehicle and sell the vehicle,” Darrow
He hopes the film will familiarize the company’s
salespeople – generally unfamiliar with the ultra-luxury
convertible segment – to be as good at selling the car as the
experienced workers at the Bowling Green plant have been in
manufacturing the automobile.
“My job is to tell the story of this car,” Darrow said.
“We’re going all-out to do that.”
GM officials hope the story includes high customer
satisfaction and awards in the luxury sports category versus
main competitors, which include Jaguar and Mercedes, in
competitions like the J.D. Power annual evaluation. The car
will have to put it in fifth gear to catch up with the other
car made at the plant. The Corvette is competing to be the top
car in Power company’s Premium Sports Category for the
While the awards strengthen pride, the 127 new jobs the XLR
is creating in Bowling Green are helping shore up the local
economy. Bowling Green City Commission voted Dec. 2 to approve
a $40 million revenue bond issue to build the car and bring
the jobs to the plant. To make room for the new line, the
plant added on just 10,000 square feet and are storing parts
in an off-site warehouse facility off Louisville Road.
Most of the new jobs of building the XLR have been filled
with workers who previously built Corvettes, which has created
new positions on the Corvette side.
“They were offered positions based on seniority,” Bunker
said. “Many jumped at the opportunity to get in on the ground
floor of building a brand new car. It’s the chance of a
Jeff Wallace, who used to make Corvettes, said he doesn’t
regret his decision to switch to building the new line.
“I’m really excited about this style,” said Wallace, an
experienced utility-line worker who moves along the line
assisting with different facets of production. “I was at a gas
station last week and one of our managers pulled up in an XLR,
and people were really wowed by it.”
Ken Lowe, Wallace’s co-worker, said that while he’s always
taken pride in his work, being involved in producing a new car
is a different experience.
“I’ve never had a chance to be involved in anything like
this before,” Lowe said. “It’s a whole new experience and a
lot slower pace.”
With much of the car being handcrafted, only three XLRs are
being made in an hour – slow compared to other vehicles.
“The XLR is a very unique and low-volume build,” Bunker
said. “Only 5,000 per year will be made.”
The pace is much more hectic for Corvettes – 17 are made in
an hour – and, in some other facilities, where trucks are
turned out as much as a 65-per-hour ratio.
GM officials count on the new XLR becoming worthy of its
own Aaron Tippin video some day.
Tippin, whose hits include some songs written by Phillip
Douglas, a Bowling Green native and member of Exile, a local
band, is traveling the country and narrating segments on
American-made products for the Great American Country cable
network, a main competitor to Country Music Television.
Included in the series will be Kentucky-made products,
including Louisville Slugger bats, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee
Whiskey and, of course, the Corvette.
“This gives rednecks down in Georgia and Alabama a chance
to see how you guys are doing up here in Kentucky,” Tippin
said. “This series will be chance for my fans to get out so to
speak and see what’s going on and being made in different
parts of the country.”