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DETROIT — General Motors unveiled a plan to turn more than 40,000 factory employees into marketing specialists for the automaker's lineup of vehicles in an effort to drive more traffic to dealers.

The foundation of the GM Vehicle Plant Tour is to encourage the manufacturer's employees throughout North America to help drive awareness and sales in their communities.

To push the newest models from Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac, GM is planning to send four semi-trucks with six vehicles each — 24 vehicles in all — on a tour that will make monthly stops at major company plants throughout the United States and Canada.

By the end of the tour, GM anticipates the program will have reached facilities where more than 40,000 employees work.

Company officials indicated that the GM Vehicle Plant Tour was jointly developed by United Auto Workers and salaried team members. They plan to run the tour from March to December, beginning this month at GM plants in Arlington, Texas, Tonawanda, N.Y., and Defiance, Ohio

GM intends to load the trucks with marketing materials that highlight product features. Showcased vehicles will be used by the plants for overnight employee test drives, shorter ride-and-drive programs and community events that highlight the units.

The OEM added that employees are encouraged to allow non-GM employees to test drive the vehicles as long as a GM employee is a passenger. The vehicles on tour include the Chevrolet Equinox, Camaro and Malibu, Buick LaCrosse, GMC Terrain and Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon.

"Employees across North America have played a vital role in creating an outstanding lineup of new vehicles for Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac," explained Denise Johnson, GM's vice president for labor relations.

"We want to give our employees the opportunity to become even more familiar with the final products, so they can speak based on firsthand experience about our lineup," Johnson added.

The automaker reiterated that the GM Vehicle Plant Tour is built on the premise that personal, word-of-mouth testimonials are the best way to persuade consumers to try and buy new products. Executives want the program to engage employees at all levels in outreach efforts to provide these testimonials one-on-one in their communities.

"The hardworking men and women at these plants are focused each day on producing high-quality vehicles," stressed Cal Rapson, vice president and director of UAW International.

"The UAW is proud to support a program that enlists the help of our members to play an active role in promoting these vehicles in their communities," Rapson added.

The automaker mentioned that the GM Vehicle Plant Tour is an extension of the Vehicle Advocate program started last year for employees at Michigan facilities, including GM World Headquarters in Detroit, the GM Warren Technical Center, GM Powertrain Headquarters in Pontiac and GM Service and Parts Operation in Grand Blanc.

GM conducted a pilot of the program last November at a plant in Flint, Mich. Wendy Stachowicz, manager for the GM Vehicle Advocate Program, and Jeff Mulnix, UAW member and quality network representative at Flint Assembly Center, worked together to develop the vehicle program for the plants. Their efforts resulted in the first set of vehicles being sent to the manufacturing facilities.

The automaker offered snapshots of vehicles showcased in the tour:

—Chevrolet Equinox: "A compact crossover that offers space and fuel efficiency. The 2.4L engine gets a segment-leading EPA-estimated 32 mpg highway. The MultiFlex rear seat moves fore or aft nearly eight inches for the best rear legroom in its class."

—Chevrolet Camaro: "A 21st century version of the American muscle car, it was the most-searched vehicle for 2009, according to Yahoo. The 6.2L V-8 offers up to 426 hp and 25 mpg on the highway while the 3.6L V-6 delivers 304 horsepower and 29 mpg on the highway."

—Chevrolet Malibu: "A midsized sedan that won North American Car of the Year for 2008. Models equipped with the 2.4L engine/six-speed automatic combination are rated at 33 mpg on the highway. Changes for 2010 include three new exterior colors and the replacement of the driver's manual lumbar control with a new, power-adjustable control."

—Buick LaCrosse: "Redesigned from the ground up for 2010, this luxury sedan comes in front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive and a choice of two fuel-saving V-6 engines. It offers available head-up display that projects essential information for the driver on the windshield and available adaptive lighting that can direct the high-intensity discharge headlight beams up to 15 degrees for enhanced illumination of the road and its curves."

—GMC Terrain: "A five-passenger crossover that comes in front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions. It provides a host of standard safety and technology features, including rear-vision camera, programmable power rear liftgate and Bluetooth hands-free phone capability."

—Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon: "Cadillac's first-ever North American wagon, the CTS Sport Wagon is essentially the same size as the CTS sport sedan, but the Sport Wagon nearly doubles carrying capacity, with 25 cubic feet (720 liters) of space behind the rear seats; and 53.4 cubic feet (1,523 liters) with the rear seat folded. Available features include all-wheel drive, a 40-gigabyte internal hard drive, pop-up navigation screen and a hand-cut-and-sewn cabin."