DETROIT --Next week, the Chrysler group will announce that its Sterling Heights, Mich., assembly plant will build a new generation of models using team assembly and a flexible labor agreement, says CEO Dieter Zetsche.
"We're still fleshing out the details of our new Sterling Heights assembly plant and Sterling stamping plant labor agreements. We'll have more to say about this next week," Zetsche said in a speech to the Detroit Economic Club on Monday, March. 14.
The new labor pact at Sterling Heights will "incorporate many of the innovative features" adopted at UAW Local 1268 in Belvidere, Ill., Zetsche says.
In December 2004, UAW Local 1268 approved a new agreement that will be used to build a new generation of small vehicles replacing the Dodge Neon beginning in the 2006 model year.
"The Belvidere labor plan provides for concepts such as work teams, self-designed work stations, a framework of minimal and flexible job classifications, extensive employee training and other elements that will provide a better work environment for our assembly line operators," Zetsche said in the speech.
Chrysler is expected to announce that UAW Local 1700 at Sterling Heights will assemble the vehicles replacing the Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Sebring beginning in the 2007 model year.
But in a sign of new production flexibility at Chrysler, the company will be able to use the Belvidere and Sterling Heights plants interchangeably to build the new small and mid-sized cars, depending on sales demand.
Tom LaSorda, Chrysler COO, confirmed the two-plant strategy in January. Previously, Chrysler has not had the flexibility to shift production between plants.
Currently, the Sterling Heights plant builds the Sebring and Stratus sedans and the Sebring convertible. The Sebring and Stratus coupes are built at the Mitsubishi Motors Corp. plant in Normal, Ill.
The Chrysler group has no plans to produce vehicles in Normal after its contract expires this year.
The Chrysler group developed the small- and mid-sized vehicle platforms for its new vehicles with Mitsubishi. Mitsubishi will derive vehicles from the smaller platform. But the larger platform will be exclusive to the Chrysler group.
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