Upgrades add downtime for Chrysler plants

December 29, 2009 http://detnews.com/article/20091229/AUTO01/912290323

Upgrades add downtime for Chrysler plants

The Detroit News

Employees at some Chrysler Group LLC plants will be off the job for an extended holiday shutdown as a number of facilities are being prepared for stepped up production and vehicle upgrades in 2010.

In the U.S., four plants will remain closed the week of Jan. 4. They include the Belvidere, Ill., plant that makes the Dodge Caliber and Jeep Compass and Patriot, all of which are being refreshed. Also on extended holiday are the Warren Truck plant (Dodge Ram and Dakota), the Toledo North Jeep Liberty and Dodge Nitro factory and the supplier park that makes the Jeep Wrangler.

An extra week of downtime in Toluca, Mexico, will be used to retool to add production of the Fiat 500 subcompact car by year’s end. The plant also makes the Dodge Journey and Chrysler PT Cruiser.

Canadian plants making minivans in Windsor and the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Challenger in Brampton will remain off the job for the week of Jan. 11, as well. Brampton is preparing to launch all-new versions of the 300 and Charger while the minivans are getting a significant upgrade.

In a statement, Chrysler said the temporary shutdowns are necessary to install equipment to launch new models, and some re-sourcing is necessary with the scheduled closing of the stamping plant in Twinsburg, Ohio, in March.

The downtime also will allow for scheduled maintenance before what Chrysler hopes will be a busy year after production was cut back dramatically in 2009 due to slow sales and the complete shutdown of assembly while the automaker was in bankruptcy in the summer.

"We have booked a full slate of orders for the first quarter of 2010, so our manufacturing facilities will be quite busy," said Scott Garberding, senior vice president in charge of manufacturing. "On top of that, we continue the comprehensive implementation of World Class Manufacturing at our facilities while preparing for the aggressive schedule of new and refreshed model launches in 2010."

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