Weekly Recap: GM plans massive new paint shop at Chevy Corvette factory
Plus: Notes On Takata, Mazda, And Motorcycle Fatalities
The automaker is breaking ground on a new paint shop this summer that's part of a $439-million investment to upgrade the 34-year-old Bowling Green, KY, factory that builds the Stingray. The massive new structure will total 450,000 square feet, nearly half the size of the current 1-million square-foot facility. Construction is expected to take two years and won't impact Corvette production.
The upgrades include new robots that save paint and create a better finish, longer, more efficient ovens to bake in the finish, and LED lighting. There's also a dry scrubbing booth technology with a limestone handling system that eliminates waste.
GM has invested $135 million in the factory in last four years for the changeover to build the C7 and to relocate its Performance Build Center to Bowling Green. The improvements continue to modernize the Kentucky factory, which has become a tourist attraction in its own right, as more than 56,000 enthusiasts visited it last year. The upgrades are part of a $5.4-billion investment GM confirmed in April that will remake its US footprint in the next three years.
The Bowling Green expansion underscores GM's continued commitment to the Corvette, which sold nearly 38,000 copies around the world last year, an eight-year high. "With this major technology investment, we can continue to exceed the expectations of sports car buyers for years to come," North American manufacturing manager Arvin Jones said in a statement.
OTHER NEWS & NOTES
Takata recall hits 34 million vehicles
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration expanded the Takata airbag recall to an almost unthinkable 34 million vehicles on Tuesday. The recall is part of an agreement reached by the two sides where Takata admitted some of its airbag inflators have a defect, and the deal compels the company to comply with all future regulatory actions and investigations. Takata's airbag inflators were produced with "a propellant that can degrade over time" and lead to ruptures, NHTSA said. Six deaths have been attributed to the flaw worldwide. Investigations conducted by Takata, automakers, and others have not determined the exact cause of the inflator problem, but NHTSA said moisture appears to alter the propellant's chemical structure. It then ignites too rapidly, creates too much pressure that ruptures the inflator, and blasts shards of metal at passengers. For more information on the Takata case and other recalls, click here.
Mazda launches 'Driving Matters' campaign
It's been a big week for Mazda, the Miata, and Autoblog, and Mazda capped it Friday with the launch of a new campaign called Driving Matters. The advertising highlights the "emotional connection" of driving Mazdas, and it is an evolution of the company's Game Changers campaign. The long-running Zoom-Zoom tagline "will absolutely still be there," spokesman Nick Beard said, and it appears at the end of the campaign's first spot. Mazda has used Zoom-Zoom since 2000.
Motorcycle fatalities projected to fall
Motorcycle fatalities are projected to drop for the second year in a row, the Governors Highway Safety Association said Wednesday. Fatalities fell 1.8 percent in 2014 to 4,584, according to early data from the first nine months of last year. Motorcycle deaths decreased in 27 states, increased in 19, and were flat in four states and the District of Columbia.
Despite the potential progress, the GHSA urges caution, noting that motorcycle deaths are 26 percent higher than a decade ago. That's the opposite of vehicle deaths, which have fallen 28 percent. The decline in motorcyclist deaths has more to do with weather patterns than an increase in safety, the association said. "The risk factors that are associated with it [motorcycling] aren't really changing," spokesperson Kara Macek said.
Meanwhile, NHTSA also proposed plans this week to crackdown on so-called novelty helmets that do not meet Transportation Department standards. The proposal would beef up existing regulations and help law enforcement officials identify non-conforming helmets. "Wearing a helmet that meets DOT standards can literally mean the difference between life and death," NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind said in a statement. "Our proposal ensures that when motorcyclists put on a helmet it offers that life-saving protection."
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