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$850M Revives Auto Paint Plant Plans

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

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Once on the chopping block, an automotive paint shop in Michigan is now being transformed into a state-of-the-art facility as part of an $850 million investment by Chrysler Group LLC.

Chrysler unveiled the 425,000-square-foot paint plant to the media on July 16. Nearing completion and scheduled to open in early 2014, the paint plant is the first that Chrysler has built in more than 20 years.

automotive paint plant
Chrysler Group LLC

Chrysler celebrated the new Sterling Heights plant in a groundbreaking ceremony in June 2011. The plant is now approximately 85 percent complete. (l-r) Sterling Heights Assembly Plant Manager Tyree Minner; Congressman Gary Peters; Sterling Heights Mayor Richard Notte; Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel; Chrysler Group's VP and Head of Assembly Operations Fred Goedtel; and UAW Executive Administrative Assistant Tim Bressler

The new paint shop is part of an $850 million investment into the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in Michigan and two local stamping plants, Chrysler announced in October 2011.

Plant with 'Nine Lives'

The Sterling Heights facility was once on Chrysler's list of facilities to shut down during the company's government-backed bankruptcy in 2009.

In 2005, the plant had been approved for funding, before the auto industry took a hit during the recession, MLive.com reported. However, mid-size car sales started to increase, prompting Chrysler to keep the plant and invest in its future.

"This is a plant with nine lives," said John Powell, Chrysler senior manager of paint facilities, The Macomb Daily reported. "It was on the brink of doom."

While the official word is still out on the exact chunk of change spent specifically on the paint shop, media reports indicated a $350 million price tag.

Innovative Technology

The new, three-level paint shop will replace the current one connected to Chrysler's Sterling Heights Assembly Plant. The Sterling plant currently builds the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger, but the vehicles that will be painted at the new facility have yet to be revealed.

Chrysler celebrated the start of construction in June 2011, and the paint shop is now about 85 percent complete.

Vehicles will receive a base coat, micro coat and clear coat at the new plant, said Heather Montgomery, program management and paint facilities manager, according to The Macomb Daily.

Chrysler Sterling Heights paint shop
Tanya Moutzalias / MLive.com

Expected to open in early 2014, the new Sterling Heights paint plant is considered the "future standard" going forward, according to Chrysler.

The plant will consist of 112 robots spraying paint onto the vehicles, sealing them and injecting foam into them—a process that will take approximately eight hours.

The plant will also control and eliminate paint contamination.

"There's a lot of new innovative technology that we have here that we don't have anywhere else," said Powell. 

"This is definitely going to be our future standard," Powell said. 

History of the Plant

Built in 1953, the plant was originally used as a jet engine plant and was operated by the U.S. Army as the Michigan Ordinance Missile Plant, with Chrysler serving as contractor to build missiles.

It was converted to an automobile plant in 1980 by Volkswagen and purchased by Chrysler Corporation in 1983.

   

Tagged categories: Automotive coatings; Economy; Shop-applied coatings

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