“Dear Media Colleague…”
*Looks around for intended addressee*
Who, me? “Media colleague”? “Press”? Is this legit? Yep. Sounds like they found me through my Parents.com best daddy blog nomination. A PR firm hired by General Motors says they want me to come check out the 2012 Chevy Traverse via a tour of their Tech Center and Proving Grounds. They say I, and subsequently my readers, might enjoy learning about the extensive research and testing they’ve done with dads in mind. They say they’ll pay for my trip and meals.*
Well, sign me up!
Since I’m the only blogger from Michigan attending this press event (it’s still fun to say that), they say they’ll send a Traverse to my house to pick me up, and I should feel free to drive it downtown. The driver, Dennis, is a pleasant travel companion. “Where did some of the other bloggers fly in from?” I ask. New York, California, Louisiana, Virginia…
So we arrive at the Coach Insignia in the Detroit Renaissance Center, where I’m greeted by a young and very lovely French Canadian woman named Katie. I grab a glass of wine and she starts introducing me to some of the folks there. GM’s VP for Global Quality and Launches, Dr. Terry Woychowski (who’s a captivating story teller, BTW), the beautiful Sheila Sarver, Executive Director of Global Validation, and others. AND folks like Nick Shell, author of Parents.com’s The Dadabase, Zach Rosenberg of 8bitdad.com, Eileen Calandro, MomCentral.com’s Chief Mom Connector, Shannon Lane of shannonlane.com and travelingmamas.com, Andy Patzig of 411forfathers.com, and about half a dozen other bloggers. OK, now I’m starting to feel conspicuous. No one’s even heard of my li’l ol’ blog, and I’m meeting folks from sites that many of us have visited and read.
The view from the 71st floor of the Renaissance Center is breathtaking. From that nighttime, aerial view of Detroit, I am able to forget, even if just for a moment, all the aches and woes of this once-beautiful city. I feel goosebumps appear on my skin as I choke back the welling in my eyes.
We are asked to sit down for dinner, and I take my seat next to Sheila, Eileen, and Shannon, three out of the four women at this reception. This was about dads for the most part, but I felt it was more about the fact that GM designs with families in mind. The food was nice, but what made dinner great was the conversation with these awesome ladies. And do you think anyone shoved PR rhetoric down our throats? Not once. We talked about our families, blogging, travel, parenting, and so on. Shannon has some great tips on travel, BTW, so if you have questions about your upcoming vacation, hit her up.
After dinner, I go up to my room and hit the sack, but in hindsight I think I was allergic to the pillows or something. I figure I must have snored my brains out overnight because I woke up with an incredibly swollen uvula. (That’s in my throat, pervs.) Yay! Way to start my day. 5 hours of sleep and a sore throat. Whatever. I shake it off.
After breakfast we head to the Warren Tech Center, where I promptly get myself trapped in a card-key access revolving door. Yep, leave it to me, Captain Awkward. But I move on, and the morning is incredibly informative. We get an overview of their Traverse quality validation program and learn about things like gathering customer (including children) feedback and the CAVE, a 3D virtual reality system. Pretty sweet. Oh, and this little phenomenon called “the puke zone.” It’s clear to me they’re thinking about the kids. And when you’re thinking about the kids, you’re thinking about the parents. Nice.
So we load up in our 2012 Chevy Traverses and head out to the 4000+ acre Proving Grounds in Milford. We meet and have lunch with a few validation engineers, learn a bit about seat testing from a noticeably nervous, obviously sweet GM seat validation engineer named Mario Zaccagnini (I wanted to give the poor guy a hug and tell him he didn’t need to be nervous in front of a bunch of dad bloggers–“Relax, guy.”), and head out to tour the rigorous Proving Grounds. Naturally, I forget to use the john before getting on the bus. Apparently I’m 5.
At the Milford Proving Grounds, validation engineers simulate the equivalent of roughly 10 years worth of wear, tear, and elements. They test the vehicles for signs of wear at various intervals, and at the end of the “10 years,” they do a complete tear-down and analysis to look for corrosion in places you and I would never even see, and implement improvements based on their findings. Tear-down is overseen by the subtly yet deliciously nerdy Corrosion Engineer, Christa Cooper. Some of the features at the Proving Grounds include a cobblestone road, saltwater mist, water trough, and carefully engineered potholes. And when they asked who wanted to take a lap and experience the potholes, guess who volunteered. He’s got two thumbs and a
full holy-hell-I-hafta-pee bladder. (This guy!) Thankfully, the pothole ride was uneventful; a testament to the Traverse’s suspension system, no doubt.
My only regret in all of this was that I didn’t have a chance to toss all three booster seats into the vehicle and load up the fam for a road trip. But the Traverse handled well, had plenty of pick-up, and came loaded with features. Aside from the USB port being somewhat awkwardly placed on top of the dashboard and the not-so-super-user-friendly stock GPS system, it was highly functional, sleek, comfortable, and spacious, given its classification as a crossover vehicle. For detailed specs, view the Fact Sheet – Chevrolet Traverse, or take a look at this beautiful piece of family transportation at http://www.chevrolet.com/traverse-crossover-suv/.
At the end of the day, I’m not really a “car guy.” And that’s not at all what this was about. The entire event was geared toward the real lives of involved dads, not stereotypes or assumptions. All in all, the GM folks I met were incredibly genuine, vision-oriented, and passionate about the work that they do. They have families, they drive GM vehicles, and they believe in their products. Most notably, they treated us like welcomed guests.
Thank you, GM, for making this a memorable and pleasurable first press experience.
P.S. GM, please tell David Darovitz I’d be willing to record some of my family’s exploits in a Traverse if he’s willing to give me a loaner for a couple of weeks. 😉
*Disclosure: GM provided travel, meals, a 2GB USB flash drive, and a one-night hotel stay for my participation in their Chevrolet Traverse Quality Validation Media Program.