To thunderous applause, more than 1,500 UAW-represented employees at Chrysler Group LLC's Jefferson North (Detroit) Assembly Plant (JNAP) welcomed President Obama to the home of the all-new 2011 Jeep® Grand Cherokee today.
The President visited the Chrysler plant a little more than a year after the Company emerged from bankruptcy to see a company that is on the road to recovery.
Since June 2009, Chrysler Group has reported an operating profit of $143 million for the first quarter of 2010; has added a second shift of production - or nearly 1,100 jobs - at JNAP; launched the all-new Grand Cherokee in May; announced that it will invest $179 million to launch production of the 1.4-liter, 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; and committed to investing more than $343 million in its transmission facilities in Kokomo, Ind.
During the President's visit, Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne announced that Sterling Heights (Mich.) Assembly Plant (SHAP), which was scheduled to close after 2012, will now remain open beyond that date. In addition, he announced that the Company will add nearly 900 jobs on a second shift of production, scheduled to start in the first quarter of 2011. To support that operation, suppliers will add nearly 500 jobs.
Marchionne also said that Chrysler also expects its European and South American sales to double between 2010 and 2011, to nearly 200,000 sales. This increase in sales is largely attributable to Chrysler's ability to leverage Fiat's international distribution networks, particularly in those markets.
"We were honored to have the President come to Jefferson North today," said Marchionne. "It was because of the courageousness of his decision that Chrysler has been able to survive, and in fact thrive, a little more than a year after bankruptcy."
The President's Visit to JNAP
Upon arrival at the nearly 3-million-square-foot assembly plant, one of the last in an urban setting and the site of Grand Cherokee production since its introduction in 1992, the President was greeted by Marchionne and JNAP Plant Manager Pat Walsh, who took him and other invited guests on a tour of the facility's all-new flexible body shop that is delivering the most precise body dimensions ever built. The President stopped to talk with employees on the panel line, a station on the assembly line where the doors are married with the vehicle body before it goes to the paint shop.
In preparation for production of the all-new Grand Cherokee, JNAP went through a complete transformation as part of World Class Manufacturing (WCM), an extensive and thorough process to restore all Chrysler Group facilities to their original and maximum functionality.
JNAP employees have gone through nearly 45,000 hours of training, and have planned and executed hundreds of projects aimed at improving the work environment, maximizing quality, minimizing waste and preparing for the new product. Employees have also submitted over 2,500 suggestions on how to further improve the processes to ensure the highest quality Grand Cherokee rolls off the line. These changes, throughout paint and assembly operations, have given the facility an all-new level of manufacturing flexibility for multiple product capability.
In total, Chrysler Group invested $686 million on the Grand Cherokee program, which included investments at the plant. Nearly four million Grand Cherokees have rolled off the line since 1992.