Greta Goes Inside the GM Plant

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," April 3, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Get your safety glasses out. Cover your rings and tapes (ph) so you don't scratch any of those new cars because now you're going inside a GM plant in Lansing, Michigan. One thousand, six hundred people work at the GM plant in Lansing. We took our cameras to the floor of the plant, and some of the workers went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Where are we? What is this?

DEASHA JOHNSON, TEAM MEMBER, GM: This is the body shop here in Lansing, Delta (ph) township in Lansing, Michigan. We're in the body shop.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's a body shop (INAUDIBLE) you know, what specifically is done inside this facility?

JOHNSON: We manufacture the vehicle from bare metal. And we produce a body, and that body goes over to the paint shop. Then it goes over to general assembly to get the trim and everything else that has to (INAUDIBLE)

VAN SUSTEREN: What are these bodies?

JOHNSON: These are GMC Arcadias, these two here. And then we have a Buick Enclave down here.

VAN SUSTEREN: (INAUDIBLE) I don't know a whole lot about cars, but they all look the same, at this point, to me. But they aren't, right?.

JOHNSON: No, they are not the same. No, they are not. There are little telltale signs that let us know which model is which.

VAN SUSTEREN: (INAUDIBLE) the welding is done by robots here.


VAN SUSTEREN: (INAUDIBLE) sparks and everything. (INAUDIBLE) watch the robots do it, but I guess they also cost jobs.



JOHNSON: It's part of continuous improvement.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. How long does it take to produce a body, I mean, to do what you do here? I mean...

JOHNSON: I'm not exactly sure of the timing for body shop from beginning to end, but I know it's about 30 hours per vehicle through the process.

VAN SUSTEREN: Any idea how many cars come through here a day?

JOHNSON: A little over -- it depends on what the count is for the day, but it's around 360 to 380 per day.

VAN SUSTEREN: How many people (INAUDIBLE) work here?

JOHNSON: I know we have about a hundred teams of 4 to 5 people up in the body shop.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you do?

JOE COTTER, TEAM LEADER, GM: I'm a team member over here in the "marriage."

VAN SUSTEREN: So you say to the chassis, Chassis, do you hereby take the body to be your lawfully wedded car and...

COTTER: Exactly. Connect them together.

VAN SUSTEREN: Connect them together. How long have you been doing this?

COTTER: I've done this area for four years, but I've been at GM for 25.

VAN SUSTEREN: When you marry the chassis and the body together, how many people actually do this?

COTTER: Nine. Nine people total (INAUDIBLE) the marriage system.

VAN SUSTEREN: And this vehicle is what kind?

COTTER: This one is the Saturn and the GMC.

VAN SUSTEREN: How long does it take to do this marriage between the chassis and the body?

COTTER: About three minutes.

VAN SUSTEREN: How did you learn how to do that?

COTTER: Training, a lot of training.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's -- much of it's automated. We've got these sort of robotic carts that bring the -- that bring the chassis over here.


VAN SUSTEREN: And then you've got the bodies going by (INAUDIBLE) brought down. That's amazing. How long has it been like that?

COTTER: Ever since I've been here.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is your job here?

MINDY CARR, QUALITY TEAM MEMBER, GM: I'm a quality team member.

VAN SUSTEREN: Which means what?

CARR: Well, which means that we triple check and double check on every single thing that comes down this line to make sure that there's no defects, make sure that we've got a perfect car for our customers.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, I asked you, when we were looking at this car -- this is a brand-new car. What is this?

CARR: This is a Buick.

VAN SUSTEREN: I know, but I mean, which Buick? This is the Enclave?

CARR: This is the Buick Enclave, yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: This is one of the fancy new cars. It's only been out for a while.

CARR: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: This even has the fancy white paint.

CARR: Yes. Yes, ma'am.

VAN SUSTEREN: And when I asked you about the paint, you knew immediately this wasn't just the regular white paint, this is the fancy white paint.

CARR: Yes, it is.

VAN SUSTEREN: (INAUDIBLE) pay that close attention.

CARR: Absolutely. Absolutely.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you ever gotten in behind the wheel on one of these?

CARR: Oh, yes, every day. I drive them every day.

VAN SUSTEREN: And do what, though, drive them around here and check things out?

CARR: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Like what?

CARR: We drive them through our water test. We drive them through our squeak and rattle test. We drive them through our driver verification test. We drive them on our pits (ph) to make sure that they're aligned and put them on the line and put them out the door.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you worry about the auto industry, big picture, I mean, and basically, jobs for your friends?

CARR: I do, but I think that we're going to survive. I really do.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you think that?

CARR: Because this is General Motors. This is General Motors. There's not a better company in the world than right here.

VAN SUSTEREN: I hear that -- what does that sound mean? Doe every sound...

CARR: That means we have one minute and our line's going to start up and we're going to roll them. We're going to put some more of these good cars off the line.

VAN SUSTEREN: So we got to roll. We got to get off or we're going to get run over by these cars because they're going to get rolled through the quality control unit (INAUDIBLE)

CARR: We're going to boot you off the line and we're going to tell you you got to move out of the way for safety purposes, and we're going to roll these out.


VAN SUSTEREN: Up next: You just saw how these cars are built. So how do they drive? Well, you are going to go on a test drive next in a car just off the assembly line. It has zero miles on its odometer when you get into this car, so get ready to go.

Plus: How many times do you think someone has said no to international rock star Madonna? We know of at least one time. Who just said no to Madonna? And did it flip her out or did she accept it? Well, that's coming up.

And we have a live report on the breaking news out of North Korea. FOX News does confirm a North Korean missile launch could happen at any minute. We have the very latest out of North Korea.


VAN SUSTEREN: Well, start your engines. During our tour of the GM plant in Lansing, Michigan, we test drove a brand-new Buick Enclave fresh off the assembly line, zero miles on its odometer when we got behind the wheel.


VAN SUSTEREN: This is a Buick Enclave, is that right?


VAN SUSTEREN: What year, 2010?



HANKERD: We'll start the 10s in a couple months.

VAN SUSTEREN: And this is hot off the assembly line.

HANKERD: Correct.

VAN SUSTEREN: This is called a crossover?


VAN SUSTEREN: Tell me about this car.

HANKERD: We love the Buick. It's -- the acoustic windows, it's very quiet. You can talk -- you know, three rows of people and you can talk without raising your voice. You'll notice it more when we get out on that road.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: How many of these can you make a day in this plant?

HANKERD: Right now we are running about 350.

VAN SUSTEREN: By the way, what is your title?

HANKERD: I am the global customer auditor.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is a global customer auditor?

It has some zip, took off, left everybody in the dust. The speed limit is 35. I was only going 34, plus, maybe a little bit more.

So what do you actually do?

HANKERD: We audit the cars. Basically, what we do is we follow a manual. It's a global customer auto manual, and we make calls according to that.

Like I say, it's on a global scale, so across the world everyone makes the same calls. And what we do is feed back to the plant with their building.

VAN SUSTEREN: I notice as we drive around a lot -- funny, I do not see any Fords, do not see any Lexus, I do not see any BMW's. Everyone here seems to be driving a Buick, a GM.


VAN SUSTEREN: Do you ever catch any of your colleagues driving any of those other cars?


VAN SUSTEREN: Is it immoral to do it?

HANKERD: Yes. They would be in for a lot of harassment -- in a good way, of course.

VAN SUSTEREN: This looks like -- as I go through the employee parking lot, it looks like we're selling used Buicks because these are the employee cars, I take it, right?

HANKERD: Correct.

VAN SUSTEREN: This car drives very well. I have never driven a crossover before -- is what? Halfway between an SUV and a car? Is that a good way to describe it?

HANKERD: Yes, that's a good way.

VAN SUSTEREN: It drives like a car -


VAN SUSTEREN: -- not like a truck. I sound like a Buick ad. Pretty soon, I will be on TV. By a Buick. It is not your grandmother's car.


VAN SUSTEREN: Or was that Oldsmobile that did that.

HANKERD: That was Buick.


HANKERD: I think it was.

VAN SUSTEREN: It does drive well. And it has every single feature that you need.

Has this plant -- you have lost a shift, right, recently?

HANKERD: Last week we cut down one shift.

VAN SUSTEREN: When this plant opened, it had three shifts a day putting out cars?


VAN SUSTEREN: What you put out here? Is it just the Enclave?

HANKERD: No. We build the GMC Acadia and the Saturn Outlook as well.

VAN SUSTEREN: We are back, and there is nothing like the smell of a new car. Zero miles when we got it. We got it straight off the line.


VAN SUSTEREN: No one disputes this, the American auto industry is on life support. How bad is it, and is there anything that can be done to fix it?

Joining us live is David Welch, Detroit Bureau Chief for BusinessWeek. David, it was an extraordinary trip for us to go to the plant. We had never been inside a GM plant. But when you look at what's going on in your state, how bad is the economy in Michigan right now?

DAVID WELCH, "BUSINESSWEEK": It is pretty dreadful, really. You are looking at just in the city of Detroit, unemployment is 22 percent. And in the metro area, it is about 14 percent, way above the national average. Housing prices are way down. It's just awful.

You go through even some of the tony(ph) suburbs and you see some - not boarded up. It's not that ugly. But you do see a lot of places that are for lease and a lot of empty storefronts and that sort of thing.

The economy has been hit by this over the past couple of years, and no sign it is going to get better anytime soon.

VAN SUSTEREN: Inside the plant, what struck me is that you could practically eat off the floor. It was so spectacularly clean.

It was so -- people were working hard. They loved and were enjoying their work. They are excited about the cars. They love the Buick. They bragged about the fact that Buick beat out the Lexus for some reliability award recently.

They were excited, but they also told me that they are down to one shift, that it used to be three ships.

WELCH: Yes. Now, that plant up there is new. It is one of the best plants GM has. And they have vehicles, actually a family of crossover vehicles that GM makes. There is one from Chevy, there's a Saturn Outlook, and there is a GMC as well.

And they are all very good. They are critically acclaimed in all the auto magazines. We call them the "buff books." And before the economy tanked and the auto market went down to half what it used to be, that plant was humming, because those vehicles were all selling pretty well.

It's not the vehicle's fault that that plant in particular is not really going. There's just nobody out there really buying cars. There's no showroom traffic these days.

VAN SUSTEREN: I guess what bothers me most of all, though, is how much I like the people I came in contact with and how excited and inspired they were by their own work. And it made me angry at the top of GM, the top of the unions, because it really is their job.

These autoworkers, they're putting the cars together well. It's the people at the top who did not have the vision or who did it all wrong, and all of these lives are so ruined all across your state.

WELCH: That's a really good state, because I go to union halls when I am reporting stories, and I have been in probably 20 something auto plants. And of all of the things you can work on and manufacture in a plant, a car is a pretty cool thing to build.

And the cars they are making in that Lansing plant, and there's another one, there's a Cadillac plant in Lansing where they make the Cadillac CTS(ph), which is another really terrific car. It's one of the best vehicles GM makes.

The people there are proud to make these cars because they read good things about them. Some of these vehicles do well in "Consumer Reports" or in quality surveys. Buick did beat Lexus out in quality this year. In fact, Buick has a brand Tide(ph) Jaguar as the top in quality for last year. So these people have something to be proud of.

As far as being an assembly line job, making a car, like I said, is kind of a neat thing to build. It's not like making a toaster oven or some small machine part.

So yes, they, for the most part, think they have pretty good gigs, and it's tough to argue with them. But their livelihood is at stake because of decisions made both by the top of the union, by the top of the company, and by the economy overall, too.

You can also blame what's gone in with the banks for throwing the auto industry and every other industry into this mess. So I understand what you're saying.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's very sad.

Anyway, David, thank you very much. And that Buick, it really did drive beautifully. Anyway, David, thank you.

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