Last month, the automaker revealed that in 2020 it will move heavy-duty Ram production from Saltillo, Mexico to its Warren, Mich., assembly plant north of Detroit. In discussing the plan with reporters, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne called moving the pickup to Mexico in 2008 "an error."
The Warren plant already is scheduled for a major capital project, handing off production of the light-duty Ram to a nearby Detroit-area assembly plant with increased capacity, while Warren will be repurposed to build high-end, body-on-frame Jeep SUVs. Adding the heavy-duty Ram will require the automaker to hire 2,500 workers on top of the work force needed for the Jeep plan, FCA said last month.
But unclear is how much additional spending or how many more Detroit-area jobs will be created by suppliers to the pickup.
Many heavy-duty Ram suppliers are also likely to provide parts for the light-duty Ram 1500, which has been moved 10 miles north to FCA's Sterling Heights, Mich., assembly plant.
Robinet believes bringing the heavy-duty Ram to Michigan will shore up some suppliers that might have had production decline in recent years. But other suppliers will need to make new investments and add workers, he said.
The Ram supply chain has received few specifics.
An FCA representative told suppliers in a three-minute conference call on Jan. 26 that they should continue planning to support the launch of the next-generation heavy-duty Ram in Saltillo in January 2019, with their current parts plants, according to one supplier on the call.
The FCA representative said that early builds of the next-generation heavy-duty pickups would be produced in Mexico through April of this year, with preproduction models starting in October, also in Mexico.
That schedule means that suppliers will have to be prepared to meet 2019 production requirements for the truck in Saltillo while preparing to launch parts for the truck 1,800 miles north in Michigan in 2020.
"It's going to be a cost, no question about it," said Julie Fream, CEO of the Original Equipment Suppliers Association, which represents auto suppliers. "Who bears that cost will have to be negotiated between FCA and its suppliers."
A spokesman for FCA declined to comment.
Marchionne said the Saltillo plant would be repurposed to build one-ton commercial pickups for export to FCA's Europe/Middle East/Africa, Latin America and Asia Pacific regions.