General Motors Co. delivered a hearty thank-you to America Thursday, and in the process opened a few eyes.
An estimated 8,200 visitors, ranging from area residents to people from West Virginia and other states, got a closeup view of what's required to build America's best-selling car - the Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan.
''It's pretty amazing how they put the cars together so they'll be run-able and safe,'' Newton Falls resident Cody Morrison, 19, said as he and family members watched workers building Cruzes during a tour of the East assembly area. ''This would be the perfect job. I love cars.''
General Motors opened its doors to the public, offering a glimpse of how it builds the Chevrolet Cru
"It's tremendous how they put it together. It goes in a circle, and it's done,'' said Carl Cheuvront, one of 23 members of an antique and classic car club that traveled 160 miles from Fairmont, W.Va.
The open house at the 4,500-worker Lordstown Complex was among those GM is holding around the country to thank America for helping the company survive its 2009 bankruptcy.
After repaying the loan and issuing new stock in November, taxpayers still own hundreds of millions of GM shares, a fact officials acknowledged.
Steve Faldetta of North Royalton takes a tram through the stamping plant where parts for the Chevrolet Cruze are formed. About 8,200 people took part in the day’s open house at the GM complex in Lordstown.
Photo by R. Michael Semple
"Thank you, America," Dave Green, president of United Auto Workers Local 1714 of the Lordstown West Metal Center, told the crowd during opening ceremonies.
Jim Graham, president of Local 1112 at the Lordstown East assembly plant, said the bankruptcy taught the automaker "not to take our customers for granted," adding his members worked "very, very hard" to win the right to build the Cruze, and that the company is committed to again becoming No. 1 in the world.
The Cruze was No. 1 among all cars in June with 24,896 sales, beating perennial leader, the midsize Toyota Camry, along with its compact rival, the Ford Focus at 21,385. Year-to-date sales total 122,972.
People taking the tour had to sign up at one of the area's 18 Chevrolet dealerships. An estimated 600 to 700 people registered at Trumbull County's largest Chevrolet dealership, Diane Sauer Chevrolet in downtown Warren.
"People came in in droves. It's exciting for people who haven't had the opportunity to see the (plants) and see how efficient the people are," she said.
James and Laurel Stanyard came from East Palestine to see how the car they own is built.
"We love the car. We're glad to have the opportunity to see where it came from," he said.
The assembly tour included stops where the engine is placed onto the cradle in front of the car, and at the "marriage" area, where the car body is connected to the underbody built at the next-door Metal Center fabricating plant.
Visitors to the Metal Center saw how massive stamping machines pound sheet metal into hoods, doors, trunk lids and other metal parts. The plant features a high-tech body shop, where some 900 robots weld steel parts together to form the underbody.
Before the tours started, officials handed out $10,000 donations from the GM Foundation to five area organizations - the Warren Family Mission, the P-16 Partnership for Education in Warren, Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children's Center for Science and Technology, Earth Force Green and the Youngstown State University Foundation.