DETROIT -- General Motors has enlisted about 100 retired GM engineers to help monitor the launch of its next-generation full-sized pickups, which are expected to reach showrooms next month.
The retirees are working mainly at GM's Tier 1 suppliers to ensure quality on key subsystems, such as steering gears and chassis controls, GM North America President Mark Reuss told Automotive News last week.
The retirees also are keeping on eye on the readiness of Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers to support the pickups' launch.
Reuss said hiring the retirees is one of GM's steps to ensure smooth vehicle rollouts during a year in which the company is scheduled to launch 13 new, redesigned or refreshed models.
A quality supply of parts is vital to any vehicle launch. But risks have grown over the past two years as suppliers that deeply cut capacity during the financial downturn in 2008-09 strain to keep pace with steadily rising orders.
GM's unusual move also underscores the importance of the launches of the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, which have been redesigned for the first time in nearly seven years. Combined, the pickups are GM's top-selling vehicles in the United States and among the most profitable, with margins that can top $10,000 per vehicle, analysts estimate.
GM put the retirees "into the suppliers to bring all of the knowledge and lessons learned of their experience over their careers," Reuss said.
He said the contract retirees have the authority to handle problems that surface further down GM's supply chain, at Tier 2 parts suppliers. He said they're mainly focused on about 100 subsystems that are especially critical to launching on time and without quality snags.
GM hit on the retiree idea last year in anticipation of its loaded launch schedule. The company also used the veteran engineers on last month's launch of the Chevy Impala, which Reuss says was "almost flawless because of this kind of an approach. We know it works."