Small pickup truck may be in WAP's future
Report says it would compete with Honda Ridgeline
By Dave Hall, The Windsor Star
May 18, 2011
According to some reports, this truck could be built at the Windsor Assembly Plant in the next few years.
Photograph by: Web Grab, allpar.com
WINDSOR, Ont. -- Chrysler Canada officials have declined to confirm reports from auto industry insiders that the company is planning to build a new smaller pickup at Windsor Assembly Plant on the same platform which now produces minivans.
Chrysler spokeswoman Lou-Ann Gosselin said she couldn’t confirm or deny the rumours.
“As as matter of company policy, we don’t discuss future products,” said Gosselin.
Rick Laporte, president of CAW Local 444, said he hasn’t heard anything about a new vehicle being added to the product mix at the assembly plant but said it would be a welcome addition.
“Obviously any new product would help solidify the plant’s third shift but I’ve not been able to confirm any of the reports,” said Laporte, whose local represents about 4,400 workers at the plant.
“If there is any truth to it, I’m excited but so far it’s just rumours,” said Laporte.
“My only concern is whether or not it’s the right time to add another pickup, even a small one, to the marketplace with gasoline prices being as high as they are,” said Laporte.
Doug Shepard, editor of Automotive Compass’s weekly report tracking current and future global auto productions, told the Toronto Star Tuesday that “it (the vehicle) is an insurance policy that the plant will continue on three shifts at full capacity.
Shepard went on to say that Chrysler documents “definitely point to Windsor as the plant location.”
But later Wednesday, a spokesman for the industry research firm, said “that comment got out into the public domain when it shouldn’t have and we have no further comment.”
Laporte said there was no discussion about new products during the last round of collective bargaining because “we were fighting to help the company survive and we weren’t looking that far ahead.”
In January, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne virtually guaranteed the future of the minivan plant by saying it would eventually get a new, more versatile platform, allowing it to produce a variety of vehicles including a hybrid minivan, a smaller people carrier and possibly a full-sized sedan.
“We’ve learned a lot in making this minivan over the last 20-plus years,” said Marchionne. “We need to upgrade this and make it a much more versatile platform that will allow us to make more than just minivans.”
If the rumoured new product is introduced by the automaker, it’s expected to compete in the same segment as the Honda Ridgeline.
The assembly plant currently builds more than 300,000 units of the Dodge Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country and the Volkswagen Routan each year.
If another product is added, it’s not likely to have much impact on workforce levels since the plant is already operating on three shifts but it’s expected to solidify the future of the plant’s 4,400 workers.
Laporte said the agreement between Chrysler and Volkswagen expires with the 2013 model year and that production could end as soon as July of next year.
“If production of the Volkswagen ends, we would obviously like to see something take its place,” said Laporte.”We’re not building a whole lot of them but replacing it would help keep the third shift intact.”
Laporte said the plant assembles about 250 Routans a week which could easily be supplanted by another low-volume product.