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New Chrysler Hirings Help Push Aggressive Product Plans


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New Chrysler Hirings Help Push Aggressive Product Plans

Maker adding 1,000 jobs at Chrysler Technical Center – and more to come.

by Joseph Szczesny on Dec.01, 2010

Chrysler builds its payroll as it rebuilds its product line-up with models like the new 200.

Chrysler is backing up CEO Sergio Marchionne’s sweeping plans for overhauling the company’s product line-up with an infusion of new employees.

The automaker confirms it has hired nearly 1,000 employees at its Technical Center in Auburn Hills, Michigan according to executives responsible for implementation of the company’s product plans. And still more new hires are expected, according to senior Chrysler officials.

“That’s a pretty decent number,” said Chrysler spokesman Mike Palese, who confirmed the 1,000 jobs figure, adding the new employees included a mix of full-time and contract workers hired between October 2009 and October, 2010.

Senior Chrysler engineers said the company needed to add engineers and technicians to help with the overhaul of the maker’s product line, which had been neglected by the company’s old partner, Daimler AG, and then starved by its subsequent owner, the equity giant Cerberus Capital Management, which purchased the company in the summer of 2007.

Chrysler veterans say that the maker was virtually incapable of sustaining its existing product line-up, never mind expanding or updating its offerings by the time Chrysler plunged into bankruptcy, last year. Cerberus ceded control as a result of that Chapter 11 filing, the government, in turn, turning control over to Fiat. The Italian maker currently holds a 20% stake in Chrysler, but that will grow to as much as 35% if Fiat meets a series of benchmarks, such as growing Chrysler sales overseas.

Marchionne, who serves as both Fiat’s and Chrysler’’s chief executive officer, drew up a new product plan for the company after Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy.

The product overhaul was critical to Marchionne’’s plans for reviving Chrysler and also had to be executed quickly, said Ralph Gilles, Chrysler’s top designer and president of the Dodge brand, which has revised a number of key models for the 2011 model year, which began October 1.

(GM Hiring 1,000 to beef up battery-car development efforts. Click Here for more.)

If anything, Chrysler is trying to move faster than ever, as demonstrated by the transformation of the old Sebring into the 2011 Chrysler 200, a project that took barely 12 months to complete.

Chrysler engineers and technician have been assigned a wide range of projects under Marchionne, including the updated Dodge Avenger, which is being built at the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, alongside the new Chrysler 200. SHAP also is scheduled to build an all new midsized model based on a platform originally designed by Fiat.

Engineers also have been working on the new Dodge Durango, which will debut next month, and an all-electric version of the tiny Fiat 500, which is tentatively scheduled to begin production in 2012.

Spokesman Palese said Chrysler also has been hiring personnel in other disciplines such as marketing and audit.

The hirings track closely with two other projects pushed by Marchionne, increasing Chrysler’s “voice” and presence in the market place and preparing the company for an IPO, or initial public offering of stock, in the second half of 2011.

Chrysler has not been a public company since 1998, when it was acquired by what was then Daimler-Benz AG of Stuttgart, Germany.

The hirings, in Auburn Hills, come on top of the company’s moves at key assembly plants. At its Jefferson North Assembly plant, in Detroit, the company added 1,200 jobs in July, and it plans for an additional shift at Sterling Heights, which will bring onboard 900 workers, starting in February.

The hiring of both full-time employees and contractors in Auburn Hills comes two years after more than 12,000 salaried personnel voluntarily left the day before Thanksgiving in 2008.

The 2008 cutbacks came as the company was struggling financially and is often described by both former and current Chrysler employees as one of the bleakest days in the history the maker, which has seen its share of miserable days during its long history.

The 2008 buyouts, retirements and other cuts left Chrysler short-handed in areas requiring skilled employees such as engineers and accountants, outside analysts have said. It appears Marchionne is trying to recover from that talent drain as quickly as possible.



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