Chrysler celebrates European production milestone

RP news wires, Noria Corporation

Almost 15 years after the first Chrysler Voyager rolled off the production line in Graz, Austria, in 1991, DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group celebrated a milestone of one million Chrysler and Jeep vehicles "Made in Europe." The one millionth vehicle was a Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chrysler Group's top-selling model outside North America. If placed end to end, the line of Chrysler and Jeep vehicles that have been assembled in Graz would stretch from the northern-most point of Norway (Nordkap) to the south of Italy (approximately 5,000 kilometers).

"This is a key milestone for the Chrysler Group," said Thomas Hausch, the company's executive director of international sales and marketing. "We are experiencing an unprecedented sales success outside of North America with 17 consecutive months of year-over-year sales increases, and our manufacturing operation in Graz, Austria, is a key component of this success."

Hausch also indicated that the efficient and flexible plant in Austria is one of the reasons that allowed the Chrysler Group to be the fastest growing automotive brand family in Western Europe from June through September 2006.

Vehicle production in Graz began with the founding of Eurostar in 1990, a joint venture between Chrysler and Steyr-Daimler-Puch Fahrzeugtechnik, now Magna Steyr Fahrzeugtechnik (MSF), Eurostar produced three generations of the Chrysler Voyager minivan, and for a short period of time, the Chrysler PT Cruiser, before being sold to Magna Steyr in 2002.

Production of the Jeep Grand Cherokee began at Steyr-Daimler-Puch in 1994 under a contract manufacturing agreement with DaimlerChrysler Management Austria (DCMA). Since then, three generations of the Jeep Grand Cherokee have been built in Graz.

Today, MSF assembles six Chrysler Group vehicles for delivery to almost all markets outside of North America where Chrysler Group operates. They are the Chrysler Voyager, Grand Voyager, Chrysler 300C Sedan, 300C Touring, Jeep Commander and Jeep Grand Cherokee. The plant also assembles the high-performance Chrysler 300C SRT8 and the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 models. In addition to the manufacturing operations at the Graz facility in Austria, Chrysler Group also produces Chrysler Crossfire vehicles in Osnabrueck, Germany.

"We are playing a key role in helping Chrysler Group's international product offensive," said Brenda Muellner, managing director, DCMA. "We have unique expertise, knowledge and understanding of the customers' needs around the world and have produced these vehicles with the level of quality and features that is demanded in both European and other key markets outside of North America."

While most of the parts that are common with the North American models are supplied from the U.S., DCMA purchases vehicle components outside NAFTA amounting to approximately 50 percent of the material costs of the unit. DCMA and its 70 employees retain control of the parts and inventory, oversee MSF as it assembles and delivers the vehicles and ensure that all parts built into vehicles meet Chrysler Group quality standards.

Open five days a week and working in three shifts around the clock, the Graz facility produces between 80,000 and 90,000 Chrysler group vehicles annually, employing flexible manufacturing techniques. MSF's plant has two body shops for the first part of the body build, but one single production line. The Plant assembles gas, diesel, and left- and right-hand-drive vehicles for world markets.

"The production system is totally flexible, so a Chrysler Voyager could come after a Jeep Grand Cherokee, followed by a Commander, then a Chrysler 300C. This helps us to adjust quickly in order to meet the market demand," said Muellner. "The dedicated, well-trained workforce and cooperation between the different groups allowed the plant to reach this one-million-unit milestone."

Chrysler Group sells and services vehicles in more than 125 countries around the world, and Chrysler Group sales outside North America currently account for approximately 7 percent of the company's total global sales.

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