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Kerr Industries Upfits Impala and Tahoe

Kerr Industries is the GM second stage manufacturer (upfitter) and Tier 1 supplier for vehicles specifically designed and modified for police use. Second stage manufacturing is a system GM uses to extend their assembly lines to be able to build vehicles for smaller niche markets.

Kerr has been upfitting cars and trucks since 1952 and has served GM as its police vehicle second stage manufacturer each year since the 1995 Lumina. They are currently beginning the 2006 Impala and completing the 2006 Tahoe Police Packages.

Kerr’s head office and manufacturing plant is located in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, about 30 miles east of Toronto, near the GM Oshawa Assembly Plant that builds the Chevrolet Impala. A second facility is located in Grand Prairie, Texas, near the GM Arlington Assembly Plant that builds the Tahoe.

Kerr manufactures electrical wiring harnesses and installs wiring, emergency lighting, power train fluid cooling, and door modifications among other SEO’s as part of the OEM second stage manufacturing process.

Beginning with the 2000 9C1 Impala and the 2005 PPV Tahoe, each police vehicle passes through one of the two Kerr facilities where standard and optional features are installed for Chevrolet before being shipped to a GM dealer for delivery to the customer.

Kerr Industries also offers an extensive variety of dealer-ordered aftermarket equipment including such items as additional wiring to enhance customer upfitting efficiency, light bars, prisoner partitions, equipment consoles, push bumpers, video and radar systems, strobe lighting, trunk trays, power distribution centers, and other accessories.

Kerr often helps smaller fleets to develop a vehicle and equipment spec to take advantage of the GM police specific content. By offering technical support to all fleets, dealers, and upfitters, Kerr’s can make sure GM police vehicles are ordered with the correct factory SEO (special equipment option) equipment to allow aftermarket equipment to properly integrate into the vehicle.

Kerr participates in the GM’s Law Enforcement Product Council, as well as the police vehicle development process. They bring knowledge of “real life” use of police vehicles and aftermarket emergency equipment to the process GM uses to engineer and develop police vehicles.

Kerr and GM have pioneered the recent turn key police car trend that is becoming more and more popular as fleet budgets are squeezed. Kerr offers a menu based approach to its turn key packages allowing customers to specify exactly what they would like in their police vehicles including specific brand name equipment. Kerr’s will even test, repair, and reuse old equipment from cars being taken out of service.

Kerr Industries is connected to many of the GM vehicle order processing systems and receives detailed information for each vehicle before the vehicle arrives at their facilities. Using proprietary software Kerr manages thousands of vehicle orders at both of its plants to ensure that the correct OE content and aftermarket equipment is installed into each vehicle when it comes off the main GM assembly line.

When vehicles are received at the Kerr assembly plants they are processed in work cells by several cross trained installers. By cross training all of its installers, the vehicle flow can be managed to ensure there are no bottle necks within the production system. With over 3 million different option combinations that can be installed on a police Impala, not including all of the various makes and models of aftermarket equipment that are available, Kerr’s production system is very flexible.

When all of the SEO and aftermarket options are completed the vehicle goes through a detailed quality inspection including, in the case of the Impala, a road test. The results of the inspection are recorded and first time quality is recorded and measured as part of the ongoing installer education program.

In addition to the work Kerr Industries does for GM, they also operate from their Oshawa facility a contract maintenance division that services and repairs commercial vehicles including police and security vehicles. This allows Kerr the unique opportunity to continuously evaluate the quality and durability of the police vehicles they build and upfit for GM as well as other competing vehicles. This knowledge results in continuous improvements to what Kerr offers both GM and its customers and is another way that GM and Kerr are innovating together.

Erik Jorgensen is an engineer and has been part of General Motors Police Vehicle Engineering Teams since 1985. He is currently part of the product development team working on the 2007 Tahoe Police Program. He may be reached at

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Jan/Feb 2006

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