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Article published December 16, 2008

Report: Jeep seats work to remain in area

Those seats that cradle American posteriors in that most iconic of American vehicles, the Jeep Wrangler, won't be made at a factory in India as previously announced.


"I'm keeping them," said Wayne Truitt, Johnson Controls unit chairman for UAW Local 12. "Our plant manager told our people she was 99 percent sure that we're keeping the Wrangler seats. With everything that's going on with the economy, I'll take that kind of news."

A Chrysler official, speaking on background due to the sensitivity of the contract issue, confirmed that the pact with Krishna Maruti had been cancelled for what the person called "quality and timing issues."

A spokesman for Krishna Maruti could not be reached for comment. However, during a September interview at Krishna Maruti's headquarters, A.K. Bedi, the executive director of operations, told The Blade that the company in Gurgaon, India had every intention of beginning its work with Jeep by the middle of 2009. He spoke about Krishna's plans to build a 60,000 square foot factory, with more than 100 employees.

Mr. Bedi described the Jeep project, its first major international deal, as a way for Krishna Maruti to become a global competitor. He said Krishna - which long has built seats for Maruti Suzuki, India's largest automaker - felt it could compete not only on quality, but pricing.

Local development officials said the Indian firm sought tax abatements to open up a plant in the Toledo area where the Jeep seats would be manufactured. But those offers were rebuffed.

Mr. Truitt said the Johnson Controls plant will lay off 48 people from its second shift on Friday in conjunction with the loss of the second shift at the Toledo Jeep Assembly complex. The job losses are in addition to about two dozen workers who remain laid off from when the plant lost its third shift in February.

However, Mr. Truitt said the plant has learned that it has won the work to build seats for the Jeep Liberty/Dodge Nitro line this summer, work that had been done at a Johnson Controls site in Rockwood, Mich. When the work comes, Mr. Truitt said the Northwood plant should be able to call people back to work.

"It's going to be tough on the 50 people that will be out until July, but at least there's a light at the end of the tunnel," he said. -- Report: Jeep seats work to remain in area
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