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Chrysler will begin a multimillion dollar renovation of its Jefferson North assembly plant this week as the automaker prepares to launch a redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee and possibly another Jeep vehicle at the 13-year old Detroit factory.

The improvements at Jefferson North are part of a sweeping effort by Chrysler, a unit of DaimlerChrysler AG, to make its assembly plants more flexible and match Japanese rivals on productivity and efficiency.

Massive retooling efforts at Chrysler factories in Brampton, Ontario; Newark, N.J.; and now Detroit are accompanying new model launches and slowly bringing the company up to speed with its swiftest competitors.

The plant upgrades suggest that Chrysler, after years of lagging behind the industry, is starting to understand the value of assembly lines that can produce several different models, said Michael Robinet, vice president of global forecast services at CSM Worldwide in Farmington Hills.

“We aren’t sitting in the dark days any longer,” Robinet said, “where there’s one vehicle going down one line and there’s no ability to build anything else.”

Being able to build more than one vehicle in a factory saves money and allows automakers to respond more swiftly to consumer demand.

A majority of the 2,700 workers at Jefferson North were given layoff notices last week and will be off the job for three weeks beginning Monday while the automaker replaces old equipment and revamps the plant’s paint and body shops. While idled, workers will collect 95 percent of their pay.

Employes will return in phases after the shutdown, with everyone back on the job by late July, when production of the 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee begins.

The overhaul of Jefferson North underscores Chrysler’s dedication to the Grand Cherokee, one of the company’s best selling and most profitable products.

The 2005 Grand Cherokee is the first redesign of the rugged sport utility vehicle in six years and a critical piece in a comeback effort for Chrysler, which has lost more than $4 billion since 2000.

Pilot production of the redesigned SUV will begin in June, with the first market-ready versions rolling off the line in July.

That’s a remarkable turnaround given the extent of the renovations at Jefferson North, said Byron Green, Chrysler’s vice president for assembly for truck and activity vehicles.

Full Story HERE
 

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A majority of the 2,700 workers at Jefferson North were given layoff notices last week and will be off the job for three weeks beginning Monday while the automaker replaces old equipment and revamps the plant’s paint and body shops. While idled, workers will collect 95 percent of their pay.
Sweet, a 3-week paid vacation! :rolleyes:
 
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