Toured the GM Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kasas City!
I decided to tour the GM Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, KS to see the new Chevy Malibu being produced. The Fairfax Assembly Plant is one of the main plants that produces the Chevy Malibu, along with the Buick Lacrosse and Malibu eAssist models. Situated on approximately 572 acres, the Fairfax Assembly Plant employs more than 3,000 workers from the Kansas City area. The plant is also one of GM's largest and most technologically advanced plants in the country.
I left New York City on a Saturday and arrived in Fairfax, KS on a Monday. Driving the 1500 or so miles was quite an experience, so I made sure I had ample time to make my appointment and took plenty of stops along the way. During this time I passed through the states of NJ, PA, WV, OH, IN, IL, IA, MO, and finally KS. I drove the Corvette but next time I will drive the Spark to mix things up.
The plant itself was huge. Our tour guide said the plant is on 572 acres, in which 85 of those acres are used for manufacturing. The plant was originally built in 1945 and was used for aircraft manufacturing, in which they built cars alongside the airplanes. The present facility, which is shown in the pics below (sorry no indoor shots were allowed) was built in 1985. The GM Fairfax Assembly Plant currently builds the Chevy Malibu and the Buick Lacrosse. They build both the gasoline models and the hybrid eAssist models on the same assembly line. The plant is represented by UAW Local 31 and employs 3877 workers at the present time.
My tour started with the assembly line itself, where workers were installing door panels on the cars and mounting accessories such as the dashboard and steering wheel. Then we moved over to the CNC machining area, in which the actual steel for the car was being stamped and cut to specs. Next was the powertrain section in which the GM Ecotec 2.5L engines from Tonawanda, NY were being mated to the GM 6Txx transmissions built in Toledo, OH at the Toledo Transmission Plant.
After the interior, powertrain, and accessories were installed, the car goes into a "fluid fill" area in which programmable Fanuc robots install the exact amount of motor oil, transmission fluid, coolant, brake fluid, and windshield washer fluid into the vehicle. Then the software is loaded to the electronic control modules (ECU, PCM, BCM, etc.) and the car is started for the first time. The car then gets test driven over to a "quality check" area and any problems such as loose trim or rattling door panels are addressed. They also test all of the interior accessories such as the radio, heater/defroster, air conditioner, and exterior accessories such as lights and wipers.
If anything is found wrong with the car, the car gets pulled back into a service section and the problem is repaired, then the car gets tested again for the final quality check. During my tour we had a 99% "pass" rate, which is impressive given the complexity of these cars. The cars are also checked for body imperfections and physical defects such as scratches and paint damage. Once this is done, the cars get shipped to the dealerships and are no longer property of the GM Fairfax Assembly Plant.
Overall my tour was impressive, learning about the different components that go into the Malibu and Buick Lacrosse and how the different trims are built (hybrid versions are built alongside gasoline powered models, but have a different electrical system) on the same assembly line. What was impressive was that workers knew which car was coming down the line even though they all pass through the same assembly line one after another (Malibu/Lacrosse/Malibu eAssist/Lacrosse eAssist).
I would highly recommend this tour for anyone interested in learning about how GM vehicles are built and see exactly what goes into the process of building some of the world's most technologically advanced automobiles. If anyone has any questions, or would like to see more pictures, feel free to PM me. I'd be glad to answer any questions about the plant tour.