Chrysler celebrates production launch at Windsor Assembly Plant

RP news wires

Joined by Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne, government officials and CAW leadership, employees at the Windsor Assembly Plant (WAP) on January 18 celebrated the launch of production of the new 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country. The vehicles are two of the 16 new or significantly refreshed products the company debuted last year.

Marchionne and Chrysler Canada president and CEO Reid Bigland, along with Ontario Minister of Economic Development and Trade Sandra Pupatello, Ontario Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan, Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis, CAW president Ken Lewenza and other local officials, recognized the importance of the plant, the workforce and the new minivans to the future success of the Company during a ceremony at the plant.

“The new 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country remain key parts of our revival plan,” Marchionne told more than 1,200 employees in the audience. “Our collective future is dependent on the success of this plant and these vehicles. We’re in this battle together. We must continue to put our trust in each other and make a true, full-faith effort to work together.”

Marchionne also reminded employees that it was with the assistance of the federal government of Canada and the Province of Ontario that Chrysler has been given an opportunity to create a future.

“Chrysler Group owes a deep debt of gratitude to taxpayers in Canada and the U.S. for the loans that enabled a re-energized, restructured company to emerge in June 2009,” said Marchionne. “We recognize we have a moral responsibility to fulfill our promises, justify these investments and pay back every penny that was loaned to us.”

In preparation for the launch of the new 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country, the company has invested more than $1.4 billion USD since 2008 for assembly, stamping, material handling and tooling as well as improvements to the Windsor paint shop. Windsor is currently the only Chrysler Group assembly plant that operates on three shifts with more than 4,400 employees.

"This is a proud day for Chrysler Group and the CAW as it launches two new minivans, thereby preserving good manufacturing jobs in Canada,” said Lewenza. “Our commitment and effort over more than 25 years have played an important role in the success of the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country.”

Since June 2009, Chrysler Group has made significant progress toward building a successful enterprise, including:

  • reporting an operating profit of $565 million USD for the first three quarters of 2010;
  • reporting the ninth consecutive month of year-over-year sales increases in the U.S. in December;
  • investing nearly $1.2 billion USD into the company’s existing transmission manufacturing facilities in Kokomo, Ind., to accommodate production of a new advanced front-wheel drive automatic transmission; increase capacity and support production of the World Engine and improve processes for the 62TE transmission program; and accommodate future production of a new highly fuel-efficient eight-speed automatic transmission;
  • announcing a $600 million USD investment in its Belvidere (Ill.) Assembly plant;
  • confirming an investment of $850 million USD in its Sterling Heights (Mich.) Assembly Plant and surrounding stamping facilities;
  • planning an investment of $150 million USD in its GEMA (Dundee, Mich.) facility;
  • announcing an investment of $27.2 million USD in its Etobicoke Casting Plant (Toronto) to produce front and rear crossmembers for future Chrysler vehicles starting in the third quarter 2011;
  • adding a second shift of production – or nearly 1,100 jobs – at its Jefferson North (Detroit) Assembly Plant;
  • announcing that it would add nearly 900 jobs on a second shift at its Sterling Heights (Mich.) Assembly Plant in the first quarter of 2011;
  • launching the all-new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee in May;
  • launching production of the all-new 2011 Dodge Durango, Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger in December 2010, and the 2011 Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger in January;
  • announcing that it will invest $179 million USD to launch production of the 1.4-litre, 16-valve Fully Integrated Robotized Engine (FIRE) at the company’s Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance (GEMA) plant in Dundee, Mich., creating more than 150 new Chrysler jobs.

Chrysler Canada Ends 2010 on a High Note
Chrysler Canada has played a vital role in helping the company meet the goals outlined in November 2009. As it begins its 86th year, Chrysler Canada reported a sales increase of 26 percent in 2010, achieving the highest year-over-year sales growth in Chrysler Canada history and its thirteenth consecutive month of year-over-year sales increases. As a result, Chrysler Canada gained two percentage points of share – more than any other manufacturer – increasing its market share to 13 percent. Annual sales records were reported for the Dodge Grand Caravan and Ram pickup truck with the Dodge Journey being Canada's best-selling crossover.

Additionally, the Dodge Grand Caravan was one of the country’s Top Five best selling vehicles. Altogether, Chrysler’s minivan sales in Canada grew by 37 percent in 2010. In fact, Chrysler Canada claimed 74 percent of the Canadian minivan market.

Production at the Windsor Assembly Plant also rose 62 percent last year and overall, Chrysler’s Canadian production rose 51 percent, making it the number two manufacturer in the country in 2010.

World Class Manufacturing (WCM) Achieves Results in Windsor
In preparation for the launch of the new 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country, employees at WAP began transforming the facility as part of WCM, an extensive and thorough process to restore all facilities to their original and maximum functionality.

The rollout of WCM began with putting more than 4,400 employees through more than 30,000 hours of training focused on the principles of WCM and how to identify and attack waste and losses on the line. As a result, employees have become more engaged with their work and submitted more than 30,000 suggestions on how to improve the processes at the plant. In fact, more than 3,000 employees at WAP have been involved in suggestions and continuous improvement activities in 2010.

Additionally, WCM has helped eliminate unsafe conditions, with a 52 percent reduction in injury frequencies.

Another area of significant improvement has been the area of autonomous maintenance. Workers take responsibility for cleaning and inspection of equipment in order to eliminate breakdowns. In the body shop, this has resulted in running over one year without a breakdown due to lack of basic conditions.

In the paint shop, employees restored the 12-year-old robotic sealer application equipment to its original condition. The team then benchmarked an idea from Fiat to incorporate clear plastic coverings to catch small sealer drips to prevent the critical parts of the equipment from getting dirty and thereby, avoiding future breakdowns.

In total, the implementation of WCM resulted in plant savings of more than $46 million CDN in 2010.

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