Behind the Scenes at GM

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By Man-Made: Chevy Volt production crew

Day 1 started off very early with a 5:30 am call time. But spirits were high as we made our way from the hotel to GM’s Pre-Production Center to film the new Chevy Volt. We kicked things off by going to the plant’s test center, where we were able to see the Volt for the very first time. Needless to say, my mind was expecting to see yet another electric car with an unappealing design. But to my surprise, I was very impressed by the look of the new Chevy Volt. Though it was still only 80% done, I could already tell it was a great looking car. You’d never be able to tell it was an electric car. The rest of the day had us at the production facility where the Volt gets assembled in its final stages. What made this facility unique is that these cars are being hand made. You usually would expect robots to do the job but there were real people putting all the parts together. Very cool!
It was another early day for us, but this time we were heading to GM’s Body Shop facility where all the individual body components are made. Here we were able to see the Volt’s body frame get made. It was amazing to see how everything is being handmade, even its fenders and bumpers. There was even a colorful character who hand-curved the edges; it was quite a sight to see. We were also able to see the car primed and put into the oven. Our camera guy really wanted to see the car go into the oven so he risked his life – and camera – to get the shot. He later said that it wasn’t too bad; it just felt like a really hot day in the desert. By the end of the day, we were beginning to realize that there just wasn’t enough time to film every process. There were just so many things to cover. We know we need to be able to get anything we may have missed on our last day before we fly out.
Today was a pretty fun day! And it wasn’t just because we got an extra two hours of sleep with a 7:30 am call time. Today we went to the Battery Facility where the batteries are put to the test. The center was only a month old and looked extremely high tech. I felt like I was inside a mother ship in some spacecraft. There were an amazing number of young engineers there. I know I’m only 26 but even I felt old, I guess these engineers are getting younger and younger. We were able to see the batteries get tested in every way possible. There were different variations of weather and terrain testing for the batteries. We checked one test out that was in extremely cold conditions – it was chilly. We learned a lot about the Volt and its range. Not only do you get 40 miles on electric, but you can go another 230 miles on a gas powered generator as well. So it’s technically not a hybrid, it is still an electric car, but when it starts to drain a bit, the generator kicks in. It is estimated that the Volt will get about 230 mpg city. After our lunch break, we went to my favorite facility, the Design Studio! This is where the Chevy Volt and many of GM’s cars are created, where they hand design and make clay models of the cars and create a base skeleton. It was there where I was able to see a fully painted Chevy Volt with all the fixings. It definitely looks like a luxury vehicle. We were also able to see some super top-secret stuff there as well. I can’t tell you what they are, but GM was has some good stuff in the works!
Today was our last day in Michigan and it was another 5:30 am call time. We needed to get all the shots we could get today. So we were on the move and back to the Pre-Production Facility to get the rest of the stages of assembly. We were cranking them out as we looked at the chassis assembly and engine assembly. Since our field producer had to leave the day before, it was just the cameraman, sound girl, and I to take on the rest of the shoot. Oh, and did I forget to mention that we needed to be at the airport by 3:00 pm?! So not only was time of the essence, we were still looking at a five-hour flight ahead. But we managed to get the shots we needed and rushed to the airport. We got home safely.
Don’t miss the all-new episode Man-Made: Chevy Volt, this Thursday at 8p et/pt!