The Chrysler group's planned $1.2 billion plant in Toledo, Ohio, -- where suppliers will finance, own and run the body, paint and chassis shops - is a "prototype" that the automaker will consider applying to some of its other plants.
"This one is a test to prove that it can work," said Tom LaSorda, Chrysler group COO, Wednesday after a speech at the Management Briefing Seminars. "Dieter (Zetsche, group CEO) and I are 100 percent certain it will."
LaSorda said Chrysler is keeping its eyes open for other chances to apply the manufacturing strategy - which cuts as much as $300 million from the cost to the automaker of setting up an assembly plant. Among the candidates being considered are its plants in St. Louis, Mo., and Windsor, Ontario, that build minivans, he said.
But the options are somewhat limited, LaSorda said. The concept of having suppliers build major parts of an assembly plant is ideally suited for a greenfield site, he noted.
In the case of Toledo, Chrysler was faced with having to replace the obsolete paint and body shops at the existing Jeep plant that builds the Wrangler.
Chrysler's approach differs from Nissan North America's Inc. in Canton, Miss. In Canton, Nissan designed its assembly plant to include work space for interior supplier Visteon/Lextron LLC, with conveyors to deliver the components to the assembly line. But Nissan has ownership of the structure.
The new plants for Chrysler will be built on land adjacent to the Toledo North plant that builds the Jeep Liberty. Kuka Group will build a body shop, Durr Industries will build a paint shop and Hyundai Mobis will produce a rolling chassis for the body-on-frame vehicle. Chrysler will keep responsibility for trim and final assembly.
The components will move among the different supplier plants via conveyors. Chrysler will have inspectors in the suppliers' plants and has the right to reject assemblies that don't meet quality standards, LaSorda said.
The buildings where the Wrangler is produced eventually will be closed.