GM assembly plant welcomes new manager

Jeff Lamarche, soon-to-be plant manager at the GM Bowling Green Assembly Plant, looked out the large window that faces the front of the plant’s administration building. On a recent visit to the plant, that he will officially take over when Dave Tatman steps down March 1, Lamarche noticed a unique sight. 

He watched as people drove up to the front of the building, hopped out of their car and snapped a few pictures with the Corvettes.

“That’s not the typical automotive experience,” Lamarche said, adding that other car models don’t draw that kind of reaction.

Lamarche has worked with GM since 1981, when he started as a co-op student at Van Nuys Assembly in Van Nuys, Calif. Lamarche has served multiple roles in quality, manufacturing engineering, supply chain and production operations in several locations, including San Luis Potosi Assembly in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, according to a release from the Corvette plant.

Lamarche, who has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Kettering University and an MBA from Loyola Marymount University, is the plant manager at GM Brownstown Battery Assembly Plant in Brownstown, Mich., and has been there since 2012.

Lamarche hadn’t expected the opportunity to come to Bowling Green.

“This is one of those jobs you don’t campaign for or that you think you’ll ever have,” he said. “When the opportunity falls in your lap, it’s a real quick, ‘Yeah, let’s go!’ ”

Lamarche said he was surprised at how quickly the process of moving into the position has been.

“I’ve moved a lot with GM. This was by far the fastest turnaround to telling you you’ve got a new job to showing up on site,” he said.

Because of his varied background, Lamarche thinks his experience will give him a “broad perspective of the plant.” He said he also enjoys working with a team.

“I’m not looking for me to have all the answers,” he said. “I’m going to really try to draw the creativity out of the team.”

The Corvette is a prestigious name that comes with expectations from customers, and that’s something Lamarche wants to maintain.

“Quality is a big passion of mine. ... (Customers) demand and expect it, and they deserve it,” he said.

After the 2014 Stingray received this year’s Car of the Year title, upholding those expectations is important.

“We’ve got to build off that award and build the reputation of the car,” Lamarche said.

The Stingray is already a “great car,” Lamarche said, but he wants to continue to improve it.

“Since the car is still in its first year of this generation, there are still improvements to be made,” he said.

Andrea Hales, spokeswoman at the plant, said Lamarche has talked a lot about the skilled workers at the plant and their capability to continue producing a sought-after product, or “that car” that people want.

“I think Jeff is ready to provide ‘that’ car to the customer,” Hales said.

Although the recent sinkhole at the National Corvette Museum didn’t fall under his responsibility – the museum is independent of the plant – Lamarche said being involved in that situation and announcing that GM would restore the salvageable cars was an experience he is glad to have had early in his time with the Bowling Green plant. Lamarche said he knows the Corvette is more than just a car to Bowling Green, so handling that situation well was crucial.

“Certainly this job has a lot more connections than most sites do” with the community and the museum, he said. 

Lamarche has several tasks lined up to work on when he steps into his new job March 1, including preparing for the launch of the 2015 Corvette Stingray Z06 and the relocation of GM’s Performance Build Center, where workers manufacture engines, from Wixom, Mich., to Bowling Green this year.

Hales said she anticipates “a lot of tour traffic this summer” since the plant was closed to tours last summer.

Business aside, Lamarche said he has already taken a liking to Bowling Green, remarking that everyone he has encountered has been friendly, and it’s “impressive” how many community and charity groups and organizations many of the plant’s employees are involved in.

“My wife and I are both very excited about coming here and setting down some roots in Bowling Green,” Lamarche said.

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