Once bankrupt and teetering on the brink of closure, Chrysler’s Sterling Heights (MI) Assembly Plant has rebounded in a big way to break ground on a 500,000-square-foot high-tech paint facility.
Chrysler Group LLC celebrated the start of construction of a state-of-the-art paint shop at a ceremony Tuesday at the plant. The event marked the fulfillment of an $850 million investment that Chrysler pledged in October in the Sterling Heights plant and two local stamping plants.
Chrysler Group LLC
|The plant, which employs 2,300 workers, produces the 2011 Dodge Avenger and several other models.|
Chrysler would not provide any details about the facility, to be completed by the end of 2012, and said it had no immediate plan to hire additional painters.
Still, the groundbreaking signified a turning point for a plant whose future was uncertain two years ago. Government and labor officials joined Chrysler representatives in hailing the new construction.
‘Remarkable Success Story’
"SHAP was scheduled to close by the end of 2010 as part of the court-approved reorganization of Chrysler," said Fred Goedtel, Chrysler Group’s Vice President and Head of Assembly Operations. "But now, 24 months later, we are celebrating a remarkable success story—a story that can be written thanks to the collaboration of industry, government and labor.”
He added: "With a new paint shop and the commitment of more than 2,300 employees, this plant is poised for a bright future producing the next generation of Chrysler Group products.”
|An artist’s rendering shows the new 500,000-square-foot paint shop.|
In addition to SHAP, some of the $850 million (Chrysler would not say how much) will be invested in two area stamping plants, in Sterling Heights and Warren.
“That’s the biggest investment our city has ever gotten,” Sterling Heights Mayor Richard Notte, a former UAW member, said during the ceremony. “We appreciate that.”
"This is an important day for Chrysler Group and the UAW as the company celebrates the beginning of a new chapter for the Sterling Heights plant," said United Auto Workers Vice President Tim Bressler.
"This paint shop and the associated investment, along with the strong relationship between our two organizations, will contribute to the future success of Chrysler, this facility, our employees and the products we so proudly build."
Since June 2009, Chrysler Group has invested nearly $3.2 billion in its U.S. facilities. The company reported a net profit of $116 million in the first quarter of 2011 and its 14th straight month of year-over-year sales gains in May.
The Sterling Heights Assembly Plant was built in 1953 as a jet engine plant and was operated by the Army as the Michigan Ordinance Missile Plant, with Chrysler serving as contractor building Redstone and Jupiter missiles. It was converted to an automobile plant in 1980 by Volkswagen and purchased by Chrysler in 1983.
Staffed by 2,300 workers, the 3 million-square-foot plant began producing the 2011 Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger in December; in February, it began production of the 2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible.