Assembly plant retooling ‘significant,’ says Chrysler Canada CEO

Friday, January 9, 2015

Chrysler Canada CEO Reid Bigland said Thursday the Windsor Assembly Plant will be undergo “significant” retooling in preparation for the next generation minivan.

“A lot of that change is just making modifications to the plant to get ready for the next generation minivan,” Bigland told reporters at the company’s headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich. “The plant will shut down for the better part of 90 days as we do some significant work to the plant.”

The plant is slated to shut down Feb. 15, but Bigland refused to elaborate when asked whether Windsor Assembly could expect to get an overhaul  similar to the $1-billion makeover to the automaker’s plant in Sterling Heights, Mich.

“Obviously by having the plant down, a plant that builds 1,400 units a day, it’s pretty significant to be down that long,” he said.

Late last month, the automaker announced it was using a 545­-ton crane to install 200 pieces of structural steel to create a new conveyor enclosure on the plant’s roof.

The enclosure will house the plant’s new skillet line, which moves the vehicle along the assembly line, adjusting its height to the desired level for workers, improving vehicle quality with a better line of sight, Chrysler said in a statement. The skillet also provides optimal ergonomic positioning, and is among “additional projects”  that will be completed during the 14-week period.

Union officials have said the lengthy shutdown suggests the automaker is making an investment in the $1 billion to $1.5 billion range and goes beyond simply gearing up for the next generation minivan.

“Certainly what they’re doing has all the makings of a very significant —  to use Reid’s words — investment,” said Tony Faria, co-director of the Office of  Automotive Research at the University of Windsor. “They did not shut down for this period of  time in advance for the current generation minivan.” [Read More]