The Chrysler group has enlisted European coachbuilder Magna Steyr to take over paint operations at the new $2.1 billion Jeep Wrangler plant in Toledo, Ohio.
Magna Steyr assumes the role vacated this year when Haden International Inc. unceremoniously dropped out of the deal, along with its other North American contracts.
Magna Steyr, a subsidiary of megasupplier Magna International Inc., of Aurora, Ontario, assembles vehicles in Graz, Austria, on an outsourced basis for various automakers -- DaimlerChrysler AG among them.
Magna Steyr's Graz plant produces the Chrysler 300C sedan and Town & Country minivan, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Commander for markets outside North America.
"They were already familiar with our practices and expectations," said Markus Mainka, a Chrysler spokesman.
The Toledo arrangement also may provide a toehold for Magna Steyr's North American aspirations. For the past year, Magna officials have said they want to enter North American manufacturing, possibly assembling vehicles here.
"This is a good first step for us in bringing niche vehicle production to North America," said Tracy Fuerst, a spokeswoman for Magna International.
Chrysler conceived Toledo as a model for future auto plant investments. Three key suppliers invested in separate parts of the Toledo plant, with the understanding that each would own and operate its corner of the Jeep production.
In addition to Haden's construction of the paint plant, South Korea's Hyundai Mobis would build, own and operate the Toledo chassis line, while Germany's Kuka Group would build, own and operate its body assembly line.
Mainka said that while Magna Steyr will operate and manage the paint plant and employ its work force, the supplier will not own the plant.
Chrysler acquired the paint plant from Haden after it abandoned the project. The plant will instead be owned by a DaimlerChrysler subsidiary called TPF Asset.
You may e-mail Lindsay Chappell at [email protected]