DETROIT -- Chrysler Group will add more than 1,600 workers at its assembly plant in Belvidere, Ill., by the end of summer to boost output of the new Dodge Dart and two Jeep models.
Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Chrysler-Fiat, will travel to Belvidere to make the announcement on Thursday, prior to a weekend address at the National Auto Dealers Association convention, according to people familiar with the matter.
Chrysler currently employs 2,500 production workers at the Illinois factory and a nearby stamping plant.
The Illinois plant, which produces the Jeep Compass and Patriot and will begin production of the Dart later this spring, will also convert to the automaker's controversial 3/2/120 production schedule.
Under the 3/2/120 schedule, production employees work four, 10-hour shifts per week with three days on and two days off as part of a six-day workweek. The rotating schedule allows Chrysler to significantly reduce overtime costs by providing more hours of production at straight-time rates.
The hiring plans suggest Chrysler is confident about sales prospects for the Dodge Dart, a replacement for the Caliber hatchback. U.S. sales of the Compass climbed 200 percent last year to 47,709, and demand for the Patriot rose 42 percent to 54,647 units.
A year ago, the Illinois plant was building less than 500 vehicles a day.
The rotating 3/2/120 schedule was a main point of contention during national labor negotiations between Chrysler and the UAW last fall. The union said it disrupts workers' ability to adjust to one shift or another, unnecessarily increasing fatigue.
The automaker has implemented the 3/2/120 schedule at an engine plant in the Detroit suburb of Trenton. Workers there have complained that the rotating shifts add stress and fatigue that leads to reduced product quality.
Chrysler, which posted a 26 percent increase in U.S. sales last year, also plans to add shifts at assembly plants in Detroit and Toledo in 2013.
Later this year, it will reopen the once-shuttered Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit to build the next- generation SRT Viper.
Chrysler plans to boost production and worldwide sales to 2.4 million units in 2012, up from just over 2 million vehicles in 2011.