• Apr 21, 2009
Any pending arrangement between Chrysler LLC and Fiat SpA could see a huge reshuffle of Chrysler's manufacturing facilities all across North America to make way for joint production of a new generation of vehicles to be sold with Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Fiat and Alfa Romeo badges. Included among the possible sites for retooling are those in Windsor, Ontario, Canada; Toluca, Mexico; and Belvidere, Illinois.

The Windsor plant is where Chrysler currently builds its minivans, the Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan and the star-crossed Volkswagen Routan. Windsor also happens to be where Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne went to university, but there's talk of shifting minivan production away from Ontario, possibly down to Toledo, Ohio, in order to make way for local production of the Alfa MiTo and a future small Chrysler to be based on the next Fiat Grande Punto. Toluco, where the Dodge Journey and soon-to-be-discontinued Chrysler PT Cruiser are currently produced, could be retooled to build the Fiat 500 and a new Jeep based on the next Fiat Panda Cross. Finally, while Belvidere currently assembles the Jeep Compass, Patriot and Dodge Caliber, the Illinois plant could end up assembling Fiat-based replacements for those vehicles, plus a jointly developed next-gen Jeep Liberty and Alfa crossover, in addition to the replacements for the Chrysler Sebring/Dodge Avenger and Alfa 147 and 159.

Retooling the plants, however, could cost as much as half a billion dollars each. Of course, this plan is all part and parcel of the larger Fiat/Chrysler tie-in currently under negotiation, and would require greater concessions from union leaders – especially the Canadian Auto Workers who have reportedly been hesitant to budge from their position. Should the two automakers come to an agreement, however, the Federal government could consider additional loans, in part to help finance the retooling.

[Source: Automotive News – subs. req'd]


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  • 16 Comments
      Jeremy Wayne
      • 5 Years Ago
      I wonder what Chrysler will do with the St. Louis South van plant? They spent a lot of money renovating it to build the new vans and close it after a year or less. I hope they consider using it as well.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Jeremy Wayne
        I agree, they spent something like 500 million to make those plants more flexible. I hope they have plans for them as well.
      • 5 Years Ago
      You know they talk about legacy cost, the big 3 have been around for a lot longer than the transplant companies , ie toyota, etc ,so yes the costs would be naturally greater.They should at least take a look at pensions and benefits for that time (indexed) and remove that from the base rate(what the foreign companies cost/per hour) and start the negotiations from there. and on a side note i have seen everyone try to cut cost except for 2 entities,
      credit card companies and HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS this is rediculous to say the least
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is a moot point if there is no merger, let's not get ahead of ourselves here.

      Deal? or No Deal?
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree.

        Chrysler is done. Put a fork in it.

        The problem with Fiat is that no one really knows if their products would actually sell here in the U.S. Chrysler execs seem to think this is a panacea, when in reality these vehicles would probably require heavy modification to be suitable for U.S. tastes. Ford and GM haven't been successful bringing European cars here, and even Toyota and Honda JDM products have been less than successful here.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I like the look of a lot of the Fiat products, but I for one would tend to sit back and wait enough years that we'd have a better idea about their long term reliability before I'd buy one. Particularly so considering the reliability of current Chrysler products built at these plants is less than stellar. If a lot of people think the same conservative "wait and see" approach on Fiat/Chryslers, they still may not make it even if the merger does happen.

      A year or two for the products to be released, and another several years to convince the public about their reliability. I doubt they can survive 5 to 7 years waiting for that to happen. They need buyers in the short term.
      • 5 Years Ago
      [provided the deal goes through] I'm wondering what they plan on doing in terms of pitching a clear set of brand message to the carbuying public.

      What I think I see is the making of a (somewhat blurry) 3-tiered approach:
      At the bottom end-
      Dodge/Fiat (Dodge dealers selling Fiats in their dealerships, with the latter covering the smaller end of the segments and the former covering larger vehicles)
      At the top end-
      Chrysler/Alfa (Chrysler dealers selling Alfas in their dealerships, with the former covering the larger, non-sporting vehicles and the latter covering the smaller, sportier segments of the luxury tier)
      In the middle-
      Jeep, which sells SUVs, and this is where it gets hazy....is Chrysler really picking-up the slack as the Mercury/Buick/Lexus competitor? Or are upper-spec Dodges (like the Charger & Challenger) picking-up the midprice segment? Or will it be a combination of both?

      The reason I bring this issue up, is because it seems like it would be a shame if Chrysler & Fiat pull this arrangement off, only to become a giant, unwieldy, and at times ill-defined corporation like GM was.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Does this mean the new corporate slogan will be "Fix it again Tony" in honor of Fiat's previous history in the U.S., or will Tony be the spokesperson exclaiming "We have fixed it and life is good"?
      • 5 Years Ago
      A lil off topic but even if the caw and chrysler are successfull in cutting the wages tto where they need to be to keep the people working building them.......who the hell are going to buy them . Seems we should look a little further down the road.
      • 5 Years Ago
      UAW boss: 'Retooling?' I dunno, sounds awfully expensive. It might cost you a little extra to do that, if you know what I mean *puts out palm*

      *Fiat walks away*

      UAW Boss: Hey, whereya going? You can't do that, my hand is out, we know what that means!!!!!!
      • 5 Years Ago
      This doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Chrysler already has other plants set up for flexible manufacturing. If they move Fiats and small cars into Windsor, why not move the minivans back to St. Louis and not have to waste time messing with the Toledo plants? There's also Sterling Heights, which is where the Avenger and Seabring are currently being made...It just seems like a really convoluted idea. Of course I sense a big helping of pure speculation in this.
      • 5 Years Ago
      My guess is that they won't last that long. In a market like this, the weak die. And they're gasping for breath.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I personally like the Dodge line up (with some re-tooling), I like the Challenger, the Charger, and the RAM. Jeep has the Wrangler and the Grand Cherokee, and Chrysler has the 300. The Mini-Van is in there some where. In comes Fiat, Alfa Romero's are beautiful cars, many latinos are familiar with them because they sell them in our countries. I can see a few Alfa's taking the place of such cars as the Avenger and Sebring and Fiat can take the Calibur and whatever else they got that small (hate those small cars, but loved the neon, that little car was one tough cookie).
      • 5 Years Ago
      It's hard to see this coming to fruition. To build these cars, retool plants, it would cost billions of dollars. Considering Chrysler barely makes payroll now, I just can't see it happening.
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