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GM plant fueled by truck fans’ loyalty

A man’s love for his truck is a mysterious and, some say, beautiful thing.

For one owner, the allure might be the curve of the chrome grille. For another, it’s heated seats that keep things toasty in winter.

For George Gerdes, the reasons can be summed up with dollar signs.

The president of Teamsters Local 414 drives a 2008 GMC Sierra in what he calls “arrest-me red.” His wife drives a 2007 maroon Sierra.

Gerdes’ 2008 pickup truck is the seventh he’s bought that was built in General Motors’ Allen County truck assembly plant, where vehicles first rolled off the line more than 26 years ago.

Members of United Auto Workers Local 2209 assemble the pickups. Teamsters drive them off the assembly line and load them onto rail cars or carrier trucks. Teamsters also drive the carrier trucks.

“I like to support the local economy,” Gerdes said, adding that he buys the vehicles from a Columbia City dealership.

The union leader said the Sierra is dependable and well-built, but he admits he doesn’t get emotional about a metal frame sitting on four wheels.

“It’s a vehicle,” he said. “I’ve had several. You ride around in them. I’m not a car nut.”

Mark Gevaart, who has worked at GM for 30 years, has heard some truck owners get much more expressive about their rides. The president of UAW Local 2209 knows of a Chevrolet Silverado that has logged more than 2 million miles.

“That’s why you have loyal customers,” Gevaart said.

Farm families, he said, show intense loyalty to truck brands, even passing down the preference from one generation to the next.

Gevaart is grateful for Chevy and GMC fans because they keep more than 3,400 union members building trucks in Allen County on three shifts.

Despite some national reports that GM has a backlog of trucks and will shut down its production lines for several weeks this year, Gevaart was unaware last week of any such plans for the Allen County plant.

It has been updated with $275 million in new equipment and additional floor space to prepare the factory to build the next-generation pickups.

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