Fiat SpA (F) is adding 800 employees in Sterling Heights, Michigan, to support production of the redesigned Chrysler 200, reviving a factory that was almost shuttered following the U.S. automaker’s 2009 bankruptcy.
Fiat invested almost $1 billion in the plant, which will build the 2015 Chrysler 200, the Turin, Italy-based company said in a statement yesterday. The factory, which employs a total of 2,800 with the new hires, has added new paint and body shops, increasing its total size to about 2 million square feet.
The plant had been slated to close in 2010 after Chrysler Group LLC’s bankruptcy filing a year earlier. Fiat, which acquired a majority stake in the U.S. automaker as it emerged from under government control, bought the rest of the company in January. The factory is a symbol of how far Chrysler has come since 2009, Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne said.
“This plant is the Cinderella story of Chrysler,” Marchionne told reporters at the plant. “In June 2009 this plant was on the execution list and it was going to disappear at the end of 2010.”
Fiat, which plans to move its primary listing to New York, may delay that move by 30-90 days, Marchionne said. The company had previously planned to list its shares there by Oct. 1.
Fiat is also working to retool factories in Windsor and Brampton, Ontario, to build new vehicles and had been negotiating with Canadian officials for funds to aid that process. Marchionne said last month that an agreement was “not even close.” Tim Hudak, the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party in Ontario’s parliament, urged the Liberal-led provincial government on Feb. 24 to refuse Chrysler’s request for “ransom” money.
Marchionne said he withdrew the request for several reasons, including a lack of time. The reaction of some government officials also was a factor, he said.
“The noise around this announcement became so distasteful that Fiat decided to go it alone,” he said.
“The language being used was not to our liking,” Marchionne said. “Chrysler is not in the business of accepting handouts.”
Asked whether he would make a long-term commitment to the Windsor factory, Marchionne said decisions on where to base production will increasingly be based on identifying the most affordable locations around the world.
“I will make a long-term commitment to every production facility that continues to demonstrate both inside the plant and contextually, the environment in which we operate, a desire to remain competitive, not only in North America, but on a global scale,” Marchionne said.
Fiat’s plant in Windsor builds the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Caravan minivans, the second- and third-best-selling models in the segment in the U.S. last year, trailing the Honda Odyssey, according to Autodata Corp. Chrysler will begin work on the next version of its minivan line at the Windsor factory, the company said. The new version is due in 2016.
The Brampton factory will produce new versions of the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger and Challenger cars that it already builds, the manufacturer said.
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