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Chrysler Chief Eyes More Product

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Chrysler Chief Eyes More Product

$450 mil invested to expand flexibility at key plant.

by Joseph Szczesny on Dec.07, 2010

Originally slated for closure, Chrysler's Sterling Heights Assembly Plant could now be critical to the maker's revival.

Chrysler Group’s $450 million investment in a new paint shop at a Michigan assembly line will permit the plant to build several different models, not just compact cars, CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters.

“There is going to be a whole new level of flexibility,” Marchionne said, enabling the plant to build a variety of products beyond what rolls out of the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant today.

Originally considered unnecessary as part of Chrysler’s revival plan, the facility has more than just gotten a reprieve, as the Italian executive made clear during a Tuesday visit.

“Today is a historic day for this facility. Not more than 18 months ago, it was slated to close at the end of this year,” Marchionne said. “Now, this plant will not only remain open beyond 2012 and retain jobs, but with the help of the State of Michigan and the City of Sterling Heights, we will make a significant investment in this facility to make it competitive with the best in the industry.

The visit coincided with the official start of production of the all-new 2011 Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger models, which were overhauled completely as part of Marchionne’s comeback plan for Chrysler.

During his visit, Marchionne also told reporters a bit more about Chrysler’s plans for an initial public offering of stock in the second half of 2011.

In recent months, Chrysler has hired new employees to help not only with the modernization of its product line, but also to begin preparing for the IPO, Chrysler officials said last week.

Posing for snapshots with several workers, Marchionne said the Sterling Heights plant’s 1,200 employees can enjoy the Christmas holidays without worry about the fate of the plant or their jobs.

“With the commitment, dedication and support of our UAW partners and employees, we will continue our product onslaught with the launch of the 2011 Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger, vehicles that we are confident will receive the proper recognition in the marketplace,” Marchionne said.

Perhaps the best reason for workers to enjoy the holidays is word that Chrysler sales continued their steady growth in November. The maker’s U.S. sales have increased for eight consecutive months – reversing several years of decline.

Chrysler’s $450 million investment in Sterling Heights includes the construction of an all-new, state-of-the-art, 425,000-square-foot paint shop, as well as the installation of new machinery, tooling and material-handling equipment.

In addition, a portion of the cash will go to a nearby stamping plant, Marchionne said.

“This is an important day for Chrysler Group and the UAW as the company makes a major investment in an assembly plant here in the U.S., thereby maintaining good manufacturing jobs in Michigan,” said General Holiefield, Vice President UAW/Chrysler Department.



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