Chrysler may revive plans to build transmissions at Ind. plant
DETROIT -- Chrysler Group is again pursuing a newly built but never-used plant in Tipton, Ind., where it once planned to build transmissions for its nearby factories.
The company has requested tax incentives from state and local officials for the vacant factory, according to reports in the local newspaper, the Kokomo Tribune. Details of the request were not released.
A Chrysler spokeswoman confirmed the request, but would not provide details of what the automaker had sought or say whether Chrysler owns the building.
"Chrysler Group will be working with the city regarding potential economic development incentives to assist us in making the business case for a possible future investment," a company statement said.
"With the implementation of more than $1.3 billion in previously announced investments to produce the next generation of front- and rear-wheel drive transmissions, Kokomo remains at the center of the company's powertrain offensive. We will continue to look for ways to improve our operations and our products to meet the new fuel economy standards and the needs of our customers."
The 781,500-square-foot plant was the site of an abandoned joint venture between the former Chrysler LLC and German supplier Getrag Corp. The two companies had planned to use the plant to make dual-clutch transmissions for Chrysler vehicles, but the venture fell apart in late 2008.
It is unclear what Chrysler plans to do with the factory. It just launched its first vehicle with a dual dry clutch transmission -- the 2013 Dodge Dart -- which uses the sporty transmission as an optional gearbox with its turbocharged 1.4-liter engine.
The $530 million joint-venture plant -- in Tipton County about a half-hour south of Chrysler's Kokomo transmission complex -- was originally planned to employ about 1,200 to make dual-clutch transmissions. The joint venture dissolved and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2008. The filing came after Chrysler sued Getrag, claiming the supplier had failed to secure necessary financing.
After the joint venture dissolved, the unoccupied plant was slated to build solar panels for Abound Solar Inc. of Loveland, Colo. But increased foreign competition in that industry forced Abound to abandon its plans for the plant this year.
The building and 106-acre property were sold in 2010 to Colorado real estate developer W.W. Reynolds for $25 million, a quarter of its original price.
An executive with W.W. Reynolds declined to comment on the matter earlier and could not be reached this morning. The company had listed the property recently for an asking price of $39.5 million.
Chrysler's transmission technology has been a key to its recent sales success, analysts say.
The automaker has introduced eight-speed rwd automatic transmissions on its most popular larger vehicles, and plans to produce a nine-speed fwd automatic transmission for its smaller vehicles. Both the eight- and nine-speed transmissions were licensed from ZF Friedrichshafen but are being built in Kokomo.
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