All-New Grand Cherokee in 2010, Chrysler Spending $1.8 Billion to Upgrade Plant

Date 2008/8/13 11:08:00 | Topic: Grand Cherokee

KBCI is reporting that Chrysler Vice Chairman Tom Lasorda just announced that Chrysler will be spending $1.8 billion to upgrade the Jefferson North Assembly (current home of the Grand Cherokee) in preparation for an all-new car-based SUV.

Most of the articles I've read about this story this morning are vague about the vehicle to be produced, but I did manage to find one source (a French site, apparently) that says it will be a new car-based Grand Cherokee! From
LaSorda said the new vehicles will retain the Grand Cherokee name and will hit dealer showrooms in 2010.

From the KBCI article:
LaSorda said the money will go for tooling and a flexible body shop at the Jefferson North Assembly Plant. That plant now makes the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Speaking at a weeklong industry meeting organized by the Center for Automotive Research, LaSorda said the investment will add 285,000 square feet to the plant and keep more than 400 jobs in Michigan.

The new vehicle will be more fuel-efficient than the truck-based Cherokee and will be equipped with the company's new Phoenix line of fuel-efficient engines.

LaSorda said the factory should be retooled by the end of next year and will start cranking out the new vehicles early in 2010.

He said the investment will include energy-efficient lighting and the ability to use solid waste and paint sludge as an energy source.

More info to come as the facts come out...

UPDATE (8/14/08): Chrysler has posted a press release. More details about the upgrades, no additional details about the vehicles to be manufactred. Read it in full after the jump...
TRAVERSE CITY and AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Aug. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Chrysler LLC announced today that it will invest approximately $1.8 billion in new vehicle programs, including a significant expansion and upgrade at its Jefferson North (Detroit) Assembly Plant to ready it for future production, starting in 2010. The announcement was made by Tom LaSorda, Chrysler LLC Vice Chairman and President, during a speech at the 2008 Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Michigan.

"This investment in our future products and at Jefferson North will enable the Company to produce a future generation of vehicles more efficiently, with world-class quality and an improved environmental footprint," said Tom LaSorda. "Furthermore, this commitment reinforces the long-standing partnership between Chrysler LLC, the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan."

"A strong Chrysler is important for Michigan and Michigan workers, and we are pleased to cooperate with them on this project," said Governor Jennifer Granholm. "This expansion will continue a valuable, long-term partnership that has helped keep Michigan the automotive capital of North America."

Plant and Product Advancements

The total program investment will go towards product development functions, as well as new, state-of-the-art manufacturing systems in the plant. This investment provides for the design, development, components and supplier support associated with the new vehicle programs.

"We believe the Jefferson North makeover will give the facility and our Company the upper hand on how responsive we can be to shifts in consumers' needs and changing market demands," said Frank Ewasyshyn, Chrysler LLC Executive Vice President of Manufacturing. "We also believe this will be achieved while continuously improving the quality of our vehicles that will be produced in Detroit."

Jefferson North will undergo a 285,000 square foot building expansion to replace the existing body shop, which will give the facility an all-new level of manufacturing flexibility for multiple product capability. In addition, changes throughout paint and assembly operations will accommodate vehicles of various sizes and dimensions. Material handling and other plant functions also will be improved.

Plant employees will benefit from new levels of involvement and training to help complete the plant transformation. Much of the critical work required for facility and equipment preparation and installation will be accomplished by employees from the plant, a result of collaborative work between Chrysler and the UAW.

"This is an important day for the future of the UAW and Chrysler LLC, and we are pleased to partner with Chrysler to help maintain jobs in Michigan," said General Holiefield, UAW Vice President and Director for the Chrysler Department. "Although we are in the midst of challenging times, the strong relationship between Chrysler and the Union will contribute toward our long-term success."

Green Initiatives

Multiple "green" initiatives will be employed at Jefferson North. Each of these additions will result in energy savings, as well as a brighter, cleaner and more ergonomically sound workplace for employees. Plus, these advancements will improve the environmental footprint of the facility by reducing carbon emissions, solid waste and raw material consumption while also helping to green the outside grounds of the plant. These include:

-- Energy-efficient fluorescent lighting fixtures and a state-of-the-art energy management system;

-- Air filtration systems to improve employee comfort and workplace cleanliness;

-- Decanting technology, which will utilize paint sludge as an energy source, reducing emissions and solid waste;

-- Electric-servo weld guns in the new body shop to improve welding quality for the vehicle bodies, while also producing quieter operations;

-- Replacing unused asphalt parking areas with grass to reduce heat generation and improve appearance;

-- Utilizing reusable paint clips that hold doors in place during the paint process and reusing parts racks, resulting in a reduced raw material consumption; and

-- Trailer cubing and rack density improvements to reduce fuel consumption and transportation costs.

The energy savings resulting from the sludge operations, filtration systems, lighting and servo welding alone are anticipated in total to save several dollars per vehicle built, while helping to have a cleaner, brighter workplace.

Commitment to Employees and Detroit

Chrysler LLC continues to be one of the leading employers in Detroit and Michigan. In addition to investing and expanding the plant itself, the new investment will help maintain jobs in Detroit. Chrysler currently has eight facilities in Detroit including Detroit Axle; Jefferson North Assembly; Mack Engine I; Mack Engine II; Mt. Elliott Tool & Die; Plymouth Rd. Office Complex; Conner Ave. Assembly; and Chrysler Transport.

About Jefferson North Assembly Plant

The 2.7 million square foot Jefferson North Assembly Plant was built in 1991. The Company's current Jeep(R) Grand Cherokee has been produced there since its introduction in 1992. The facility was expanded once in 1999, and the plant currently produces the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Commander. Jefferson North Assembly Plant is a member of U.A.W. (United Auto Workers) Locals #7, #889 and #412.

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