Estimated 9,000 visitors turn out for rare look inside GM’s Fairfax plant
Being at the General Motors Fairfax Assembly Plant brought back fond memories for Joe Wells of Liberty, Mo.
“I used to take flying lessons here when this was Fairfax Airport,” Wells said, noting that, while he never did receive his pilot’s license, those days back in about 1969 or 1970 were “a lot of fun.”
“I love to fly,” he added.
Flying was the focus of Thursday’s GM Fairfax Open House, as well — or the focus, at least, was on seeing separate pieces of metal and machinery develop into one sleek unit ready to fly down the highway.
Area residents were given a rare glimpse of the massive production of Chevrolet Malibu and Buick LaCrosse vehicles that occurs every day at the Fairfax plant. The open house was part of the GM- and UAW Local 31-sponsored event that included tours of the plant and test drives of some of the latest GM cars being produced.
Bob Wheeler, the plant’s communications manager, said about 9,000 people showed up for the event.
The open house was one of 54 GM is playing host to — one at each of its 54 U.S. facilities — over the course of the year as part of its effort to thank the American public for its support and to showcase GM employees and new products, according to a press announcement released prior to the event.
Self-led tours went on throughout the day, beginning at the trim shop, where all the interior elements of a car (battery, wiring, engine, seats, etc.) are placed inside the car body, and ending at the area of the Fairfax plant known as the “marriage.” This is the final stage of the manufacturing process, where the assembled car is “married” to, or combined with, its underbody.
While the tour allowed participants to watch the manufacturing process in action, signs relating tidbits of information were placed along the tour path. Information on the signs included that 5,268 seats are installed in cars every day at the Fairfax plant — enough seats, if placed side by side, to stretch the length of 36 football fields. Additionally, 1,293 cars are produced each day by the more than 2,000 employees who work at the plant.
Participants also were given the opportunity to sit in a fork truck, which is the truck used to deliver materials when needed to different areas of the plant. And for the purposes of the open house, GM provided musical entertainment with the “Dancing Robots,” two robotic machines that moved in time to pop songs.
“Oh, I liked it. Very interesting,” said Don Cook of Piper, who had brought his 4-year-old grandson, Isaac Cook, along with him to the open house. Isaac had only one word to say regarding his favorite part of the tour: “Robots!!”
Attractions took place outside of the plant, as well, including a hugely popular one where attendees were given the opportunity to test drive some of GM’s latest models, including the Chevrolet Volt and the Camaro Convertible. Other attractions included a display of two of the stunt cars from the “Transformers” films, the Chevrolet Stingray Corvette and the Chevrolet Bumble Bee Camaro. Representatives from New York Life Insurance Company were also on hand, providing child safety identification kits to about 300 youths who attended the tour, Wheeler said. The kits, which include the fingerprint of the youth and an identification card with their name on it, helps to identify children who are lost or abducted.
Wheeler said it had been about 10 years since the Fairfax plant, which began operations in 1987, had been opened for public tours.
“I think it went fantastic,” he said of the event. “We knew that there would be some interest … people have probably driven by that facility for years and have never had a chance to come in it, because … you just can’t walk in it and tour it. So we’re very pleased that that many people showed interest in it.”