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DaimlerChrysler Invests In U.S. Plants

While auto giants General Motors and Ford are shutting plants, the Chrysler Group took the wraps off a new $1 billion dollar investment in plants in St. Louis on Dec. 19. The investment is at the St. Louis North and St. Louis South Assembly Plants in Fenton, Mo., which build the Dodge Ram truck, the Chrysler Town and Country minivan, the Dodge Caravan and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans.

"The new technologies, process improvements and infrastructure upgrades are evidence of our continuing improvement in the quality of Chrysler and Dodge vehicles and the competitiveness of our plants," said Frank Ewasyshyn, Chrysler Group vice president of manufacturing. Ewasyshyn said part of the capital investment will provide St. Louis South with the capability to manufacture multiple types of vehicles on one line.

St. Louis South will be the third Chrysler Group assembly plant to implement a fully robotic body shop, giving it the ability to automatically adjust to build multiple models. The investment is expected to help ensure the future viability of both plants. Both plants will continue to implement "smart manufacturing" processes, which foster greater creativity and innovation on the plant floor. Smart processes include work teams, self-designed work stations, a framework for flexible job classifications and extensive employee training. All these factors work cohesively to create a better work environment and give increased support to assembly line operators, the company believes.

The St. Louis investment is one of several major investments that Chrysler has made in plant capacity this year, to meet increasing demand for its vehicles. Earlier this month, Chrysler said it would invest $600 million at the company's Toledo North Assembly plant in Toledo, Ohio, and in November DaimlerChrysler announced plans to spend $640 million on improvements at assembly plants in Windsor and Brampton, Ontario, Canada. Last spring, Chrysler also announced plans to spend more than $400 million to upgrade its assembly plant in Sterling Heights, Mich. for new models due out in 2006.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2005

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