Chrysler Group Begins Production of Jeep(R) Commander in Detroit
* New Jeep model expands the Jeep lineup to four SUVs * Jefferson North Assembly Plant becomes Company's next multi-product plant * Retooling was done at previous product changeover * Process changes taking root throughout system
AUBURN HILLS, Mich., July 28 -- The Chrysler Group is today marking the manufacturing launch of the all-new 2006 Jeep(R) Commander at the Jefferson North (Detroit) Assembly Plant, which has been the home of the Jeep Grand Cherokee since 1992. Commander is the fourth model in the current Jeep brand line up, along with the Toledo-built Wrangler and Liberty.
Commander production marks the first time that JNAP has had the capability to produce more than one model at a time. The Chrysler Group is giving each of its assembly plants the ability to produce multiple models on one production line, giving the Company the agility needed to respond quickly to market demand. Additionally, the plant will begin producing the SRT8 version of the Grand Cherokee in November.
"This manufacturing flexibility is critical to the future success of the Chrysler Group," said Simon Boag, Vice President - Assembly and Stamping, Chrysler Group. "As we transform our operations, we are giving the Company the freedom to schedule any build order necessary."
In addition to other plants, the Company previously announced the next two plants that will become fully flexible: Belvidere (Ill.) Assembly Plant, where Dodge Caliber production will begin in the first quarter of 2006, and Sterling Heights (Mich.) Assembly Plant, which produces the Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Stratus. Next year both plants will have the ability to produce multiple models in batch sizes as small as one unit.
Such flexibility is critical to accommodate Chrysler Group's on-going Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brand product offensive, including a record breaking year of new product introductions planned for 2006.
With foresight and strategic planning, the plant changeover to Commander production was primarily accomplished during the plant's Jeep Grand Cherokee changeover in early 2004, eliminating the need for two retooling periods. That move not only avoided the costs associated with a second retooling, it also gave the plant the ability to start piloting the Commander a full eight months before customer production in a rolling launch that did not require any additional down week or weeks.
The company invested $241 million into JNAP in preparation for the production of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Part of that investment -- $104 million -- was for Commander body, paint and assembly tooling.
To accommodate the new model, many Commander-specific modifications were made to the plant. For example, the Commander is two inches longer than the Grand Cherokee, so changes had to be made along the assembly line from body- in-white to final assembly. And as the first Jeep with three rows of seats, additional ergonomic arms had to be added to the assembly line to assist operators with seat installation. The Commander's unique Command View skylights over the second row of seats required additional robots to insert overhead glass. About $25 million was invested into robotics for Commander's new body style.
Recent agreements with UAW-represented employees have also cleared the way for new operating principles. The pacts are designed to foster greater creativity and innovation on the plant floor. They allow for work teams, self-designed work stations, a framework for flexible job classifications and extensive employee training. These elements will help provide a better, safer work environment and further support assembly line operators.
The all-new 2006 Jeep Commander
The all-new 2006 Jeep Commander is on the leading edge of a Jeep product offensive scheduled for the next few years. With its classic design, the Commander is engineered to perform as only Jeep vehicles can, is the first with three rows of seats and is equipped with advanced safety technologies. Commander shares the same exhilarating performance as its sibling, the Grand Cherokee, produced by the 5.7-liter HEMI(R) V-8 engine with the Multi- Displacement System.
Sequenced Parts Delivery
Aiding the production of the Jeep Commander is a 360,000 square-foot facility where parts are sequenced for just-in-time delivery. The center, which is just south of JNAP, has supported production at the plant since July 2004 and is operated by TDS/US. This certified minority-owned Tier 1 enterprise will handle the sequencing of parts for the Jeep Commander. The TDS/US-managed center with a total workforce of about 200 employees, handles nearly 1,500 unique parts from more than 35 commodities, like Door Kits or Trim Kits. There are currently eight sequenced parts delivery operations supporting Chrysler Group plants.
Sequencing centers such as the one at Jefferson organize parts, deliver them to work stations on the vehicle assembly line and keep in-plant stocks at an optimal level. By carefully managing the material flow of the plant, the sequencing center helps JNAP focus on manufacturing quality.
TDS/US is a proven logistics supplier to the Chrysler Group. Earlier this year Chrysler announced its largest minority logistics contract by mandating TDS/US to operate an inbound parts sequencing center for DaimlerChrysler's Belvidere (Ill.) Assembly Plant. The contract with TDS/US at JNAP is another demonstration of Chrysler Group's commitment to minority-owned suppliers.
Commitment to Detroit
The Jefferson North Assembly Plant is one of Chrysler Group's six manufacturing facilities in the City of Detroit. Others include Conner Assembly Plant, Detroit Axle Plant, Mack Engine I and II, and Mt. Elliott Tool & Die. Other operations include the Plymouth Road Office Complex (PROC), the UAW/DaimlerChrysler National Training Center, and DaimlerChrysler Transport. The company's commitment to the city is strong, and with 14,000 employees, is one of Detroit's largest private employers. The company has invested over $6 billion in the city since 1990.
Jefferson North Assembly Plant has approximately 2,700 employees and is 2.6 million square feet. It built the first Jeep Grand Cherokee in January 1992.
Commander Production in Europe
The all-new Jeep Commander will also be built at the Magna Steyr manufacturing facility in Graz, Austria. Production is scheduled to begin in early 2006 to support demand in Europe and other markets outside of North America. The vehicle will join the five other Chrysler Group products already produced in Graz: the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chrysler 300C Sedan and Touring, Chrysler Voyager and the Chrysler Grand Voyager with the exclusive Stow 'n Go(TM) seating and storage system. Jeep Commander will have its European premiere at the 2005 International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt. It will expand and strengthen what is already a strong Jeep lineup, bringing the powertrains, functionality, style, safety and value that international customers demand.
The Chrysler Group, headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich., is a unit of DaimlerChrysler AG, the world's fifth largest automaker. Its brands -- including Chrysler, Jeep(R) and Dodge -- feature some of the most recognizable vehicles like the Chrysler 300, Jeep Liberty, and Dodge Magnum. In 2004, the Chrysler Group sold 2.7 million vehicles worldwide. The DaimlerChrysler Corporation Fund, the Company's philanthropic arm, gave more than $23.7 million in grants last year.