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Chrysler Group to Build All-new 2007 Jeep(R) Compass at Belvidere (Illinois) Assembly Plant

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

* Plant is Chrysler Group's first with innovative flexible manufacturing * Second shift to be added later this year * Smart manufacturing process being implemented * Compact Jeep model offers performance, fuel economy and value

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Jan. 9 -- The Chrysler Group today announced that the all-new 2007 Jeep(R) Compass, revealed today at the North American (Detroit) International Auto Show, will be produced at its Belvidere (Ill.) Assembly Plant. The Jeep Compass is an all-new kind of Jeep that is compact and nimble and is the right size for world markets. Compass will offer performance, fuel economy and value in the highly competitive compact SUV segment.

The compass will be built on the same production line as the all-new 2007 Dodge Caliber that began production this month. Both models will be built using Chrysler Group's innovative flexible manufacturing process which can build three to four different vehicles and test-build another model all on the same production line.

"When the new Jeep Compass begins to roll off the assembly line later this year, we will for the first time realize the flexibility benefits of a new and exciting manufacturing process. We believe this is a competitive advantage for the Chrysler Group," said Frank Ewasyshyn, Executive Vice President - Manufacturing, Chrysler Group. "These new tools allow us to react to customer preference more quickly and easily in order to better satisfy our Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge customers and possibly capture additional sales."

"The team at the Belvidere Assembly Plant has been rewarded with state-of- the-art facilities and processes and we are poised to operate at world-class levels of quality and productivity," said Kurt Kavajecz, Plant Manager - Belvidere Assembly Plant. "With the recent launch of the Dodge Caliber, the pending launch of the Jeep Compass and the addition of a second shift, a bright future stands before our employees and the surrounding community."

At its heart, the new manufacturing process consists of a new type of body shop that is wholly made up of robotics and is devoid of traditional "hard" tooling dedicated to a particular vehicle. The robots, which can automatically change their own tooling to accommodate multiple models within a 42 second cycle time, could also accommodate a third model and pilot a fourth. With the new process, next generation product changeovers will cost a fraction of traditional changeovers. The process is also being implemented at Chrysler Group's Sterling Heights (Mich.) Assembly Plant and St. Louis South (Fenton, Mo.) Assembly Plant.

Along with the new technology, the Belvidere Assembly Plant is implementing a new workplace culture on the plant floor. As with other manufacturing operations in the Chrysler Group system, new "smart manufacturing" processes will foster greater creativity and innovation on the plant floor and include work teams, self-designed work stations, a framework for flexible job classifications and extensive employee training. All these factors work cohesively to create a better work environment and give increased support to assembly line operators.

Along with other process improvements, such as an adjacent incoming parts sequencing center, the changes are designed to improve vehicle quality and plant productivity.

The 3.6 million square foot Belvidere Assembly Plant has 2,000 employees and is home to United Auto Workers Locals 1268 and 1761.