GM's Grand River at Five: What Does the Future Hold?

By  | 

"Good Morning, Grand River!" General Motors Assembly and Stamping Operations Vice President Joe Spielman told a crowd of dignitaries and plant workers at GM's Grand River plant.

The auto giant is marking five years of good mornings, or perhaps, good first shifts as well as good second shifts at the facility.

Today, workers on the line there make the Cadillac CTS and STS sedans and the SRX crossover.

But five years ago, there was skepticism about the future of Cadillac and about the future of GM in Lansing.

"They missed one thing. And that is the unbelievable, fantastic, Lansing, Michigan workforce," Spielman said Thursday.

That workforce and the plant itself have earned accolades for efficiency and quality in Grand River's relatively short history. And the cars have largely matched that success.

"Annual sales (of the CTS) are 40 percent higher than they were five years ago," Cadillac General Manager Joe Taylor said.

But that good growth has slowed, and Taylor says it's a concern.

"We still have a big challenge to position Cadillac in the minds of luxury buyers that we've got the right level of prestige and presence they want when they buy BMW, Mercedes, Lexus any of the brands," Taylor told News 10.

He says the brand can accomplish that by focusing on craftsmanship and more effective advertising.

If those steps succeed in fixing flat sales, it could mean a secure future for the workers at Lansing Grand River. Their future may also fall on the sheet metal shoulders of new vehicles made at the plant, like what Cadillac calls the "322," the new CTS.

"This thing is going to beat Lexus. It's that caliber," Plant Manager Phil Kienle said.

It's a confidence the Grand River plant manager shares with Taylor, who says Cadillac executives would rather see the CTS succeed than add a long-rumored fourth vehicle to the lineup at the plant.

The CTS is expected to debut at Detroit's North American International Auto Show in January.

"(I'm) totally confident that the CTS will take the volume we've been experiencing here to a much higher level and cement the future of this plant for the long, foreseeable future," Taylor said.