Chrysler Group LLC plans to invest at least $365 million to expand and improve its Toledo Assembly Complex, adding a second shift with more than 1,100 jobs to the plant that currently builds the Jeep Liberty and Dodge Nitro SUVs, The Blade has learned.
Analysts believe the investment could be the first of a number of expansions -- and additional jobs -- at the site in future years as the automaker ramps up production to meet global demand for up to seven different current and future vehicles, including the iconic Jeep Wrangler. While Chrysler's current plans only list a second shift, a third shift at the Toledo North Plant could come if additional demand develops for new products, but that could be several years away.
Details of the automaker's plans are contained in a city tax abatement application filed by Chrysler that is to be discussed at a meeting Thursday between the city and Toledo Public Schools.
The expansion will deliver a significant impact across a broad swath of the area economy: construction jobs for an $8 million expansion of the plant's body shop, $357 million to retool and equip the complex, and a boost to the region's manufacturing sector from added jobs by Chrysler and its many area suppliers.
"What we've learned, if nothing else, is that this will be a great day," Toledo Mayor Mike Bell said.
Chrysler officially would not confirm the application's details because a state incentive package is not finalized. But it gave The Blade this statement:
"In January, 2011, Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne confirmed that the company was considering a possible investment in its Toledo Assembly Complex. As part of the process, Chrysler Group is working with state and local governments to secure incentives that would support the business case for such an investment. However, any decision to invest in the Toledo facility would be contingent upon final approval of state and local incentives and final acceptance of all agreements by the company."
Chrysler expected to be complete its expansion by 2013, according to the application. It will add $36 million in payroll through 1,050 new production jobs at $14.65 per hour, and 55 management jobs at about $90,500 each annually.
The automaker did not disclose what vehicles would be built in the modified plant, but indicated in earlier filings that it will build up to 327,000 vehicles per year at its Toledo North Plant. Ultimately, analysts said, the Toledo Assembly Complex, which includes the Wrangler plant, could build up to seven different vehicles, up from a current four, and have five -- and possibly six -- shifts of workers building new, more fuel-efficient, sport-utility vehicles and crossovers.
The complex's two assembly plants, the Toledo North Plant that builds the Jeep Liberty and Dodge Nitro, and the Wrangler plant, which makes Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited, now have one and two shifts, respectively. The plans revealed Thursday would restore a second shift at Toledo North plant for the first time since 2008.
"We're very excited about this opportunity," said Bruce Baumhower, president of United Auto Workers Local 12, which represents 2,500 hourly workers now at Chrysler's Toledo Assembly Complex. "Our members at Chrysler have worked extremely hard for a very long time. They've fully embraced the World Class Manufacturing philosophy that Fiat introduced, and they've shown Chrysler why Toledo has the most productive work force in the country."
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