UPDATE: Chrysler to reopen St. Louis assembly plant

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 | 3:26 p.m. CDT; updated 4:19 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 17, 2009

DETROIT — Chrysler Group LLC says it will resume making vehicles at seven of its North American factories, including one in St. Louis, starting June 29.

In addition to the St. Louis facility, the company confirmed that factories in Sterling Heights and Warren, Mich.; Toledo, Ohio; Brampton and Windsor, Ontario; and Toluca, Mexico, would restart operations. Production at a Detroit factory resumed Monday.

Parts stamping, engine and transmission factories that feed those plants also will restart June 29, Chrysler said in a statement.

The company had shut down all of its manufacturing operations May 4, shortly after filing for bankruptcy protection April 30. But inventories of vehicles made by the eight plants have started to shrink, spokeswoman Dianna Gutierrez said.

The eight assembly plants that are restarting employ about 15,000 workers, according to Chrysler's Web site.

Restart of the rest of the company's factories will be announced later, the statement said, probably after the normal two-week summer break in which all factories will be closed the weeks of July 13 and 20.

When the factories come back on line, their work will be done under a different manufacturing system, one used in Europe by Fiat Group SpA called "World Class Manufacturing."

Union officials say training in the new manufacturing methods got under way early in June, with workers learning a more detail-oriented, data-driven process that is similar to but less bureaucratic than Chrysler's system.

Chrysler emerged from Chapter 11 on June 10, the same day most of its assets were transferred to a new company run by Fiat, which now controls the Auburn Hills, Mich.-based automaker.

The day of Chrysler's bankruptcy filing, some of its factories were forced to send workers home due to lack of parts, because parts supply companies stopped shipping for fear that they wouldn't be paid.

But Gutierrez said those problems have been solved, and suppliers are supporting the company's efforts even during tough times.

Chrysler's sales are down 46 percent for the first five months of this year compared with the same period last year. The company forced 789 dealerships out of its network while it was in bankruptcy protection.

Gutierrez said sales have depleted stocks of models made by the factories that are reopening. Sterling Heights makes the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring midsize cars, while Warren Assembly and St. Louis North manufacture the Dodge Ram pickup truck.

Toledo Supplier Park makes the Jeep Wrangler, while Brampton, Ontario makes the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Challenger. Chrysler and Dodge minivans are built in Windsor, and the Dodge Journey crossover and Chrysler PT Cruiser are built in Toluca.



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