Some big changes are taking place at the Bowling Green Assembly Plant, home of the Chevrolet Corvette.
General Motors announced in May 2015 that the Bowling Green Assembly Plant would be upgraded with $439 million in investments to build a new paint shop. The paint shop addition would add 450,000 square feet to the plant, nearly half as large as the existing plant.
And while GM told us at the time that the paint shop addition will be 450,000 square feet, construction photos have led us to believe there is a whole lot more going on based on the total size of the expansion.
Early construction photos from December 2015 revealed what is essentially a huge basement in the facility that could be used as a paint collection “underbooth” area:
Nearly a year later in April 2016, an article in the Bowling Green Daily News was celebrating the final steel I-beam being put into position on the new facility, and in those photos, a second floor in the paint shop is also revealed. It was in that article that we learned the actual size of the new addition was nearly doubled to 870,000 square feet.
A friend of ours wanted to see just how big the new plant expansion really is by using publically available tools such as online satellite imagery and Google Earth’s measuring tool. The results are pretty amazing.
Here he describes his findings:
As you can see in the sketch, the footprint of the Paint Shop and Manifold Building is a little over 690,000 square feet. If the entire expansion project is 870,000 square feet, the remaining 180,000 square could easily be comprised of the underbooth and the second floor area in the Paint Shop.
Now, go back and look at the two photos above. Could the underbooth and second floor be more than 180,000 square feet? If so, how many square feet is the expansion really going to be? GM told us 450,000 square feet in 2015 and 870,000 square feet in 2016. I wonder if they will have a new number for us for 2017?
Here are the before and after photos from the latest satellite imagery. Google Earth’s 2014 satellite photo :
And the latest from TerraServer showing the plant and the new expansion on October 15, 2016:
But wait, there’s more to this story…
Let’s not forget that in June 2016, GM announced an additional $290 million investment at Bowling Green Assembly on top of the $439 million for the new Paint shop. GM says that the $290 million investment will “upgrade and modify the plant’s vehicle assembly operations with new technologies and processes.”
Compared with how much was spent for C6 and C7, these new investments are massive considering the low volume for the Corvette and the fact that Bowling Green is GM’s smallest assembly plant. GM spent $131 million for the changeover from C6 to C7. A large portion of that including removing the old Cadillac XLR line and then the installation of the robotic frame assembly in the new in-house body shop. Getting the plant ready for C6 (from C5) only cost $19 million back in 2004.
It’s being assumed that the $290 million investment will include making major changes to the assembly line, which by the way has been in place since the C5 Corvette. Our friend goes even further by speculating that GM will be gutting the existing assembly line and that could happen as early as this summer based on the fact that except for three days in August (Aug. 21-23), you can’t book a factory tour after June 19th.
If these upgrades do delay the start of the 2018 model year production (remember we are still expecting the 2018 Corvette to be the C7), this could ultimately be why GM punted at NAIAS for revealing the 2018 Corvette ZR1 and are saving the reveal for later in the year.
Corvette Assembly Plant Receives Additional $290 Million Investment from GM
GM to Invest $439 Million for a New Corvette Paint Shop
First Beam Set for the New Corvette Paint Shop at the Bowling Green Assembly Plant
Milestone Reached in Construction of the Corvette Assembly Plant’s New Paint Shop