Chrysler to add 1,800 workers at Illinois plant
Chrysler employees work on a 2013 Dodge Dart as it moves along the production line at the automaker's assembly plant in Belvidere, Ill.
Chrysler Group said today it will ramp up production of the 2013 Dodge Dart quickly at a plant in Belvidere, Ill., adding more than 1,800 workers even before the first model has been built.
During a ceremony with state and local officials at the plant, Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne also said the automaker will invest an additional $100 million in the plant's body shop, bringing total recent investments there to $700 million.
"It was not by chance that we chose Belvidere to make this investment and build the new Dodge Dart," Marchionne told employees. "Our decision is evidence of the faith we have in your level of commitment and your passion to deliver great products for our customers. You have been essential in our ability to author a remarkable story of recovery."
Chrysler currently employs 2,500 production workers at the Illinois factory and a nearby stamping plant. About 500 of the new employees are needed for Dart production, and the rest are required so the plant can also meet increased demand for two other vehicles, the automaker said.
The plant -- outside Chicago -- also assembles the Jeep Compass and Patriot. Production of the Dart will begin this spring. The Belvidere site produced the Dodge Caliber until December.
The plant will convert to the automaker's controversial 3/2/120 production schedule.
Under the 3/2/120 schedule, production employees work four 10-hour shifts a week with three days on and two days off as part of a six-day workweek. The rotating schedule allows Chrysler to reduce overtime costs significantly by providing an added 49 days of production a year at straight-time rates.
The hiring plans suggest Chrysler is confident about sales prospects for the Dart, a replacement for the Caliber hatchback.
U.S. sales of the Compass climbed 200 percent last year to 47,709, and demand for the Patriot rose 42 percent to 54,647 units.
A year ago, the plant was building fewer than 500 vehicles a day.
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