The look at adding a second model to Lordstown continues, an official says.
By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
LORDSTOWN -- The departing plant manager has this message for the Lordstown Assembly Plant: Winning the Chevrolet Cobalt wasn't enough.
"The plant knows that every couple years you're trying to win a new product," said Maureen Midgley, who is leaving to become executive director of General Motors' Manufacturing Engineering Paint Center.
Right now, GM is considering whether to build the redesigned Saturn Ion in Lordstown, starting next year.
GM expects plants to improve continuously on quality and production measurements, Midgley said Friday in an interview before leaving the Mahoning Valley. Any target that is met one year will be raised the next.
"As good as we've become on quality and other measures, our competitors are getting better, too," she said.
A potential plant
GM is studying Lordstown to determine if it would be the best place to build the next generation Ion, which now is assembled at the Saturn plant in Tennessee. Much depends on sales projections GM makes for the Cobalt, Midgley said.
Such studies are routine, and Lordstown will be examined for any new small car model that's developed, she said.
The plant, however, couldn't handle large cars or trucks unless the manufacturing equipment were changed, she said.
John Donahoe, plant manager at the GM stamping plant in Mansfield, will oversee future changes to the Lordstown plant. Officially, he replaces Midgley on Monday, but he will not be in the office until sometime later. He could not be reached for comment.
A fulfilling job
Midgley, plant manager since 2001, said the job here was rewarding.
"The hardest assignments you receive are the ones that allow you to grow the most," the St. Louis native said.
The Lordstown job was hard because so many big changes were associated with the Cobalt launch last fall, she said.
A new labor contract had to be implemented. The operation of the assembly and fabricating plants was consolidated, and production of the Chevrolet Cavalier continued while the $1 billion renovation of the plants was completed.
"Each one of those was a tremendous challenge," Midgley said. "Put them all together and you learn that if you keep pushing yourself and you keep pushing yourself, you can do a lot more than you thought you could."
Midgley said she is excited about her promotion because the new position has responsibilities that touch GM operations throughout the world.
The center is involved in the design of new models to be sure painting processes are considered. It develops types of paints and how they will be applied.
Before coming to Lordstown in 1999 as assistant plant manager, Midgley was director of engineering for GM's paint operations in North America. Since then, GM has given its corporate offices more global responsibilities.