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Chrysler Group Launches Production of All-New 2007 Jeep(R) Patriot at Belvidere Assembly Plant

* Flexible manufacturing cuts production costs by 85 percent * Robotics, lean dies and material flow improve quality, productivity and worker ergonomics * Third vehicle introduced at Belvidere Assembly Plant

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Dec. 20 -- Chrysler Group's Belvidere (Ill.) Assembly Plant launched production of the Company's tenth all-new vehicle this year, as the first 2007 Jeep Patriot came off the assembly line today. The plant which was extensively retooled in 2005, has become a flagship for Chrysler Group's adoption of flexible manufacturing. Production of the all-new 2007 Dodge Caliber began in January 2006 and was followed in May by the all-new 2007 Jeep Compass.

Flexible manufacturing is allowing Chrysler Group to bring its new vehicles to market more quickly and the Belvidere Assembly Plant to manufacture multiple products on one assembly line. Additionally, flexible manufacturing has positively impacted production costs by a savings of up to 85 percent in some instances. The Chrysler Group continues to implement its flexible manufacturing processes plant-by-plant.

"We are now seeing the results of our flexible manufacturing strategy that leads to a competitive advantage for the Chrysler Group," said Frank Ewasyshyn, Executive Vice President - Manufacturing. "Thanks to Belvidere's ability to build multiple models off one assembly line, we expect the production of three all-new models to cost significantly less than the initial investment we made in the plant to build one product."


At the core of the new manufacturing process is a body shop comprised of robots instead of the dedicated tooling that was previously used. Belvidere is Chrysler Group's first assembly plant to use a body shop comprised entirely of robotics. Only the robots' end effectors, or "hands," need to change in order to build the different models. That tool change is done automatically, within the time it takes to cycle from one vehicle to the next. In addition, the Belvidere plant is flexible enough to vary the production mix between three products anywhere from 0 to 100 percent of each model. A fourth model can also be piloted, or test-built, at the same time, helping reduce the time needed to make new-model changeovers. The new body shop and other upgrades are part of a $419 million total Belvidere investment announced in 2005.

Many changes are taking place within the Chrysler Group manufacturing process to accommodate the multiple models. For example, new ways to make the required amount of stamping dies are saving the company up to 60 percent on the cost of dies.

Material Flow

New methods of material flow are being implemented to manage the complexity of three models being built on one assembly line. The inbound parts sequencing center manages more than 1,799 different parts that are used in the Jeep Compass, Dodge Caliber and Jeep Patriot build process. In addition to sequencing, this center provides parts metering, kitting and container management to the Belvidere Assembly Plant and delivers complete subassemblies just-in-time to the manufacturing floor.

A tunnel connects the 500,000 square-foot sequencing center to the Belvidere Assembly Plant. This facility, operated by TDS/US -- one of Chrysler Group's largest minority-owned suppliers -- represents the highest level of integration within a Chrysler Group plant. TDS/US organizes parts, puts them in "kits" for individual work stations and delivers them to the end of a connecting tunnel for Belvidere employees to transport to the manufacturing floor. This process maintains in-plant stocks at optimal levels, minimizes delivery time and reduces costs an estimated 12 percent a year compared with the previous process. By carefully managing the material flow at the plant, the sequencing center helps workers focus on manufacturing quality and allows Belvidere to remain one of the most efficient manufacturing examples in the Chrysler Group family. These pre-assembled modules reduce the number of components required to assemble the Jeep Compass, Dodge Caliber and Jeep Patriot improving quality, productivity and worker ergonomics.


A new workplace organizational model, coined Smart manufacturing, is increasing the flexibility of the Belvidere workforce, while fostering greater creativity and innovation from plant employees. This model is being implemented throughout Chrysler Group's Manufacturing organization. In addition to extensive training, the new workplace model lets employees design their own work stations. These changes provide a better work environment for employees and give increased support to assembly line team members.

"Belvidere Assembly is running on all cylinders," said Kurt Kavajecz, Plant Manager - Belvidere Assembly Plant. "We have faced many challenges this year, we added two shifts, a new robotic body shop and started production of three all-new models: Jeep Compass, Dodge Caliber and Jeep Patriot. Our new workplace organization model, in which employees work in small teams, has fostered greater creativity and innovation on the plant floor and made for a very smooth process."

Jeep Patriot

Chrysler Group's Jeep Patriot introduces rugged, classic Jeep styling at an affordable, entry-level price.

The Jeep(R) brand continues its expansion into untraveled territory with the 2007 Jeep Patriot. This all-new compact sport-utility vehicle (SUV) delivers fun, freedom, utility and best-in-class Jeep 4x4 capability, as well as a new entry-level price point for the Jeep brand.

Based on the Jeep Patriot concept first introduced at the 2005 International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, the 2007 Jeep Patriot is a modern interpretation of traditional Jeep styling. Jeep Patriot combines the packaging and interior flexibility of an SUV with the performance, handling, fuel economy and price of a compact car or small pickup. Safety features, such as standard side-curtain air bags and standard Electronic Stability Program (ESP), add to Jeep Patriot's tremendous value.

All-new Jeep technology gives Patriot more capability than any other vehicle in its class. Jeep Patriot will be available in the United States and Canada in three drive configurations: front-wheel drive, Freedom Drive I(TM) (a full-time, active four-wheel-drive system with Lock mode) and Freedom Drive II(TM) Off-Road Package (a full-time, active four-wheel-drive system with low range that provides true Jeep 4x4 Trail Rated capability).

The Chrysler Group is the city of Belvidere's largest employer and has a significant impact on the community with 3,400 employees throughout Illinois who generate $188 million in annual wages (year-end 2005). The 3.7 million square-foot Belvidere Assembly Plant is represented by United Auto Worker's Union Locals 1268 and 1761. The plant began production of the Plymouth Fury and Dodge Monaco in 1965.