Chrysler Dedicates Dodge Dakota Plant in Brazil
7 July 1998Chrysler Dedicates Dodge Dakota Plant in Brazil
CURITIBA, Brazil -- Chrysler Corporation dedicated its new Dodge Dakota assembly plant in Brazil at a ceremony today in the town of Campo Largo, in the southeastern state of Parana. The $315 million facility is Chrysler's first pickup truck plant outside North America and its third manufacturing facility in South America. It will produce gasoline and diesel-powered versions of the Dodge Dakota pickup truck for sale in the Mercosur -- the South American trade pact encompassing the countries of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Speaking before more than 800 assembled guests, Robert J. Eaton, Chairman of Chrysler Corporation said, "The launch of this plant is extremely important to our growth strategy in Brazil and the Mercosur. It is concrete evidence of Chrysler's long-term commitment to the region and a guarantee that the vehicles produced here will meet the same standards of excellence of our products worldwide." Built in a record 11 months, the plant occupies 266,133 square feet and has a total capacity to produce 40,000 vehicles a year in two shifts. Production of the Dodge Dakota pickup, which will be assembled in standard and extended (Club Cab) versions, will begin at a rate of 12,000 units a year. Through the end of 1998, it will build 5,000 units. Approximately 70 percent of the plant's annual Dakota production will be equipped with gasoline engines and 30 percent with turbodiesel engines. Production of the diesel Dakotas will begin this October and most will be shipped to Argentina, where the pickup truck market is predominantly diesel. "The Dodge Dakota is ideally suited to the diverse needs of South American truck buyers and the region's challenging road conditions," said Dennis B. Kelly, Managing Director, Chrysler do Brasil. "Building gasoline and diesel- powered Dakotas in Brazil allows us to expand our product offering and compete in the dynamic Mercosur pickup truck market, which is expected to reach 250,000 units by 2000." The Campo Largo plant features a number of technical innovations developed by Chrysler manufacturing engineers to optimize production capacity, quality, efficiency and flexibility. The "Rolling Chassis," supplied by Dana Corporation, incorporates 205 parts from approximately 70 other suppliers -- from shock absorbers, springs, calipers and steering links to wheels, brake rotors and the fuel tank -- on a frame that is literally "rolled" onto the assembly line as one component, including tires. This is the first application of its kind to be used in volume truck assembly anywhere in the world. In the paint shop, Chrysler designed a soon-to-be-patented, vertical dip electro-coat system that can be expanded to handle double its normal capacity of vehicles without occupying additional floor space. Additionally, in early 1999, the Dakota paint shop will be the first automotive plant in the world to use PPG Industries' new "Power Prime" two-step (two-coat) electrodeposition process. This new process will replace the current spray prime material and provide a more cost effective and environmentally sound paint process with excellent vehicle corrosion and chip resistance. With 10 docking bays throughout the assembly line, all materials and components are delivered to the plant directly to the point-of-use. An electronic data interchange (EDI) communications system is used to connect all of the local suppliers to the plant to place orders for materials on a real- time basis. Utilizing these techniques make it possible for the plant to operate with no more than two hours of production material on-line at any given time. "Though we are starting production at Campo Largo with small volumes, from the very beginning we wanted to give ourselves the ability to expand, diversify and continuously improve the plant's capabilities in response to future market requirements," said Thomas R. Breneiser, General Manager of International Manufacturing. The Campo Largo plant is being launched fully within the framework of Chrysler's Operating System. This approach to manufacturing, which is used in Chrysler's plants worldwide, governs all aspects of plant operations from staffing, maintenance, materials supply and production, to environmental protection, safety and quality control. Through the Operating System, plant personnel are trained to use statistical tools and work in teams to identify and eliminate waste, defects, inefficiency and other problems in the assembly process that affect productivity, vehicle quality and customer satisfaction. Training of the Campo Largo plant workers began in September 1997, 10 months prior to the start of production. The first group of 30 trainees were chosen out of 1,300 candidates through a rigorous screening and selection process. The group underwent months of intensive classroom instruction in Brazil. This was followed by hands-on training overseas at Chrysler's manufacturing facilities in Argentina, Mexico, Venezuela and at the Warren Truck plant in Detroit, Michigan (U.S.). Upon their return to Brazil, this group went on to become "team leaders" for the launch and, in turn, trainers for the next group of workers. According to David C. Elliott, Director of Manufacturing for Campo Largo, "The kind of teamwork, empowerment and multi-disciplinary skills the Operating System promotes among plant workers allows us to assemble vehicles in lower volumes with less automation, but virtually the same level of quality as any of our truck plants worldwide." The Campo Largo plant is the second of three manufacturing facilities Chrysler is establishing in the Mercosur region. Last year the company opened a $165 million Jeep assembly plant in Cordoba, Argentina and it is currently building an engine plant, also in Campo Largo, as part of a $500 million joint venture project with BMW, that is scheduled to begin operations in late 2000. Chrysler do Brasil was established in 1995 and began importing fully- assembled Chrysler vehicles to Brazil in July 1996. The company sold 10,217 vehicles in 1997. In 1998, the company expects to sell 18,000 units and expand its number of dealers throughout the country from 26 to 45.