General Motors is moving ahead with production of two new niche vehicles --the retro-styled Chevrolet SSR pickup hotrod and a product "inspired by" the Buick LaCrosse concept vehicle.
Title: Group vice president, manufacturing and labor relations
Company: General Motors
Thesis: General Motors is moving to a new global approach to manufacturing that will allow greater flexibility in launching new vehicles and moving vehicles into production where necessary.
Cowger told an audience at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit on Tuesday that GM is "getting ready to announce" the Buick project.
Without elaborating, Cowger said, ""The inspiration -- the Buick LaCrosse --will definitely be felt in Buick showrooms."
He said GM is still working out regulatory issues for putting the SSR production line into the Craft Centre. But he said GM is confident those issues will be worked out.
Cowger would not divulge the plan for the SSR's volume or peg the likely investment that will be made to produce it. The Craft Centre was last tooled up to assemble the GM EV1, the electric car GM attempted to sell through Saturn dealerships.
GM has been plotting various moves for the LaCrosse concept since it debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in Jan. 2000. At that time, it was positioned as a sports coupe with an ample trunk, suggestive of a Saab. Since then, the concept has been stretched into a possible new near-luxury mid-size car for Buick.
Cowger indicated that a more detailed announcement about the Buick vehicle would come soon.
Cowger said GM is making progress on making its worldwide network of assembly plants more flexible. It has been rolling out a new program it calls its "global bill of process" at plants around North America and Europe. Its strategy is to install common operating, training and material procedures at all plants in order to make it easier to launch new vehicles and move existing ones from plant to plant.
Cowger said GM has been using every available opportunity, including changeovers, shutdowns and other down times, to implement the new operating systems. He said it is in place at most North American factories.
Ultimately, he said, the plan will allow North American plants to move products around as necessary.