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Article published July 13, 2010

Chrysler delays Toledo expansion; hundreds of local jobs hinge on plan

The Alfa Romeo Giulietta uses Fiat SpA's new vehicle platform, on which the next-generation Jeep Liberty is to be based. Jeep Liberty is made at the Toledo North Assembly plant.

Plans by Chrysler Group LLC to add vehicles and expand production at its Toledo North Assembly Plant have been delayed while the automaker decides how a plant in suburban Detroit fits into its long-term product plans, The Blade has learned.

Sources have confirmed that the automaker is studying whether it should build small and midsized vehicles at just two plants, Toledo North and Belvedere, Ill., and use three daily shifts at each plant. Or if it should build cars at three plants, Toledo, Belvedere, and Sterling Heights, Mich., and run two shifts a day at each plant.

The final decision puts hundreds of jobs in the balance for metro Toledo.

A spokesman for Chrysler declined to comment.

"They're looking at a three-plant competition between three states," said Sean McAlinden, executive vice president of research and chief economist for the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. "All the old things are being looked at: the paint shops, the labor [agreements], how close the plants are to suppliers. It's guaranteed that two of the three plants will get product, but Chrysler probably wants statewide deals for all these plants."

The Blade first reported in February that Chrysler was looking to expand its manufacturing operations at Toledo North Assembly, where about 950 employees build the Jeep Liberty and Dodge Nitro midsize sport utility vehicles on one shift.

Workers at the Toledo North Assembly plant began a two-week summer shutdown yesterday.

Continued: -- The Blade ~ Toledo Ohio
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