DETROIT -- The Chrysler group is scrambling to boost production of the hot-selling Chrysler 300 at its Brampton, Ontario, assembly plant.
Union officials are lobbying for a third shift.
Although Chrysler group officials are noncommittal, they must ensure capacity for production of the Dodge Charger sedan at Brampton beginning in January.
Brampton also builds the 2005 rear-wheel-drive Dodge Magnum wagon.
The unexpected sales success of the 300 is testing the Chrysler group's production flexibility - and dealers' patience. Customers are waiting several months for delivery of the 300C, dealers say.
Inventory of the Hemi V-8 300C stands at an 11-day supply nationally, well below the 70-day supply the industry considers optimal.
"We're working with the manufacturing team on what we can do to get more output" of the 300 and 300C, says John Sloan, director of Chrysler brand car marketing. "We plan to do our best to manage the demand for the 300 and the Magnum, recognizing that we have this four-door (Charger) sedan coming."
The Chrysler group would not confirm that the Charger will be built in Brampton. But the plant is the only rwd car plant in the Chrysler group manufacturing system. Brampton has begun building Charger prototypes, according to a source familiar with the situation.
The Canadian Auto Workers has asked the automaker to consider adding a third production shift, says CAW President Buzz Hargrove.
"The next two to three months will be critical in terms of trying to come to a conclusion about whether there is enough demand for a third shift," Hargrove says.
The company declined comment on a timetable for a three-shift decision. It is too early to determine if the sustained demand exists for a third shift, said Chrysler group spokeswoman Mary Beth Halprin.
Through July, the company had orders and sales for the 300 and Magnum totaling about 146,000 units. Brampton began producing the 300 in January and the Magnum in February. For comparison, Brampton built 201,723 units in 2002 before beginning model changeover in 2003.
The plant operated with three shifts from 1998 to 2001 building the Chrysler Concorde and 300M and the Dodge Intrepid. The three vehicles were replaced by the 300 and Magnum.
A three-shift schedule would yield an estimated 1,350 vehicles daily, according to a source familiar with the situation. That is 380 more units than produced on two 8-hour shifts at the plant, the source said.
But on Aug. 9, Brampton workers began working two 9-hour shifts Monday through Friday, building 1,088 units daily, the source said. The extended shift is scheduled for 90 days.The plant also works two 8-hour shifts on Saturday and two 6-hour shifts on Sunday.