DETROIT - The Chrysler group can meet mounting demand for its Hemi V-8 by adding machining equipment at its Saltillo, Mexico, engine plant.
But the automaker still is assessing long-term demand, says Frank Ewasyshyn, Chrysler group executive vice president of manufacturing.
For example, the Hemi take rate on the Chrysler 300C is running at 52 percent, down from a peak of 65 percent, the company says. It is unclear how many buyers opted for the V-6 300 because of easier availability, says Jason Vines, company spokesman.
"We think over time you're going to get Hemis down to the 35 to 40 percent range," Vines says. "But we didn't guess right at the beginning, so it may not get down to that 35 percent."
Ewasyshyn says the Chrysler group "can expand the capacity at the current site."
The company has ruled out adding production hours or operating a third shift, he says. The plant works two 10-hour shifts Monday through Saturday.
The Chrysler group's Saltillo plant builds 460,000 engines annually. Eighty percent of the output is the 5.7-liter Hemi. Saltillo also builds 2.0-liter and 2.4-liter four-cylinder engines.
A higher-output 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 arrives next spring in the 2005 Chrysler 300 SRT-8. Saltillo will build that version, too.
The 5.7-liter Hemi is available in the Chrysler 300C and the Dodge Magnum, Durango and Ram. It is optional in the redesigned 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee that the Chrysler group begins shipping to dealers in September. In January, the company begins building the Hemi-equipped 2006 Dodge Charger sedan.
"We would like all the products we offer with the Hemi to have a higher rate of supply," says Dieter Zetsche, Chrysler group CEO. "We are working on it. It's a great problem to have."