Chrysler Group celebrated the production launch of the 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Dakota in simultaneous events on August 25 at Jefferson North (Detroit, Mich.) Assembly Plant and Warren (Michigan) Truck Assembly Plant respectively. Chrysler Group President and Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche was joined by Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick at Jefferson North and Chrysler Group Chief Operating Officer Tom LaSorda celebrated with Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm at Warren Truck. Others present included Chrysler Group Executive Vice President for Manufacturing Frank Ewasyshyn, UAW Vice President and Supervisory Board Member for DaimlerChrysler AG Nate Gooden, Congressman Sander Levin, and Warren Mayor Mark Steenburgh. "The launch of these two products completes our product offensive of nine new vehicles for the 2004 calendar year and is the latest in a long line of 25 new vehicle launches that will extend through 2006," said Zetsche. "With increases in sales and market share driven by our new products and improvements in quality and manufacturing efficiency, 2004 has been a successful year so far for the Chrysler Group." During the live simulcast between the two plants, Zetsche reinforced the company's long-standing commitment to investing in its urban facilities and workforce, citing as an example 23 of its 24 manufacturing facilities located in urban brownfield sites. The Chrysler Group invested $241 million in Jefferson North in preparation for the 2005 Grand Cherokee. Significant renovations to the body and paint shops, new equipment, and the implementation of new processes will allow the facility to produce multiple models on the same assembly line while concurrently piloting an additional model. It also has the ability to implement future product introductions with a rolling launch strategy, minimizing production loss. Changes at Warren Truck began several years ago when the Chrysler Group invested $156 million in preparation for the 2002 Dodge Ram launch. An additional $100 million was spent to prepare the plant to build the 2005 Dakota. But one of the most significant changes at the plant was the launch of a third shift earlier this year, during which the company invested $35 million and added 900 new jobs. Warren Truck is a model for flexible manufacturing — running 24 hours a day, up to six days a week — and building a few million permutations of the Ram and Dakota, a number that will increase when one more mid-size truck model is added to the mix in 2005. Chrysler Group says it has significantly reduced capital expenditure with each product launch by renovating brownfield sites and reusing existing plant equipment wherever possible. Adopting more robotics and quality processes, Chrysler Group's goal is to combine flexibility, quality control, and cost savings into every manufacturing facility.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials