NICK BUNKLEY

From doom to boom: New Chrysler 200 rescued a plant destined for shutdown

Nick Bunkley is an enterprise reporter for Automotive News.Nick Bunkley is an enterprise reporter for Automotive News.
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Most auto show reveals make it seem as though the car or truck being shown will just magically appear at dealerships when it goes on sale. But Chrysler Group, in unveiling its redesigned 200 sedan today, took time to highlight the suburban Detroit assembly plant that will build the car.

Chrysler brand chief Al Gardner said the company is investing more than $1 billion in its Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in preparation for the 200. The upgrades, including a new body shop, paint shop and metrology lab, were featured in a video shown before a pair of 200s came on stage.

The investment is even more notable for the fact that that Chrysler's previous owner, Cerberus Capital Management, had announced it would close Sterling Heights Assembly before Fiat swooped in and reversed those plans. Now, as Fiat assumes full ownership of Chrysler, the company clearly wants to make sure people still think of it as an American automaker, creating jobs in the United States with the help of the taxpayer money in 2009 as it spiraled into bankruptcy.

The 200 also offers a chance for Chrysler to play up the "Imported from Detroit" tagline that the company started using for the 200 during the 2011 Super Bowl.

The 200 demonstrates, Gardner said, "that a quality sedan doesn't have to cross an ocean to be worthy of an American driveway."

Never mind that all of the seven midsize cars that outsell the 200 in the United States – and many of those with smaller volumes -- are all built here as well.

You can reach Nick Bunkley at nbunkley@crain.com. -- Follow Nick on Twitter

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