Gettelfinger expects Chrysler to keep Sterling Heights plant open after Sebring, Avenger

David Barkholz covers IT and labor for Automotive News
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger told a media reception here on Sunday that he expected Chrysler Group to put a new product in the Sterling Heights (Mich.) Assembly Plant to replace the Chrysler Sebring sedan and Dodge Avenger when the current versions reach the end of production.

Gettelfinger said it was a good sign for the plant's future when Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne kept the plant from being lumped into the old Chrysler company that is being liquidated as part of Chrysler's 2009 bankruptcy.

Marchionne said in May that the company will deliver significantly improved versions of its Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger sedans in the fourth quarter.

Gettelfinger said he could not say how much beyond the current plan that the plant would stay open.

He said he had "great confidence" in Marchionne's ability to turn around Chrysler. The carmaker posted an operating profit of $143 million in the first quarter, and Marchionne said Chrysler is cash flow positive.

Gettelfinger is retiring when his eight years at the UAW helm ends with the expected election at this week's UAW national convention of his desired successor, Bob King.

He said he has no plans for life in retirement because he has devoted all of his energy to representing the more than 350,000 members of the UAW. "I've always gone bell-to-bell," Gettelfinger said.

As has been his custom, Gettelfinger declined to comment on what his legacy would be, saying only that it has been a privilege to represent workers.

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