Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Magna plans factory at former Chrysler site

The Detroit News
Highland Park -- The site of the former Chrysler Corp. headquarters could soon be revived with a new automotive components plant.

Officials from Magna International Inc., North America's largest auto supplier, are scheduled to appear today before the Michigan Economic Growth Authority to secure tax incentives for an automotive seating facility at the site, officials confirmed Monday.

Plans are still pending approval from the state and officials, but the plant could create about 400 jobs, said Dennis Niemiec, a spokesman for Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, who helped develop the deal.

"Mr. Ficano has been working a long time trying to get an auto facility in Wayne County," Niemiec said.

Niemiec said Ficano had been working with Magna International officials for at least the last five years to pursue a possible venture.

Representatives for Magna International, which is based in Aurora, Ontario, and has offices in Troy as well as operations in about 25 countries, could not be immediately reached for comment Monday night.

A number of projects were examined but an automotive plant "was always in the discussion," Niemiec said.

In 2005, officials approved a horse racing license requested by Toronto-based Magna Entertainment Corp., which is at least partly funded by rents and fees from Magna International plants.

Magna had proposed a $100 million, Las Vegas-style entertainment complex on 212 acres at Interstate 94 and Vining near Detroit Metropolitan Airport that was to create 1,000 jobs

Chrysler Fiat Production Of The 500 At Warren Truck or Belvidere?

Chrysler Fiat is not giving up any information after Channel 4 Detroit announced that Fiat was considering building the Fiat 500 at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant. Which WTAP currently makes the Dodge Ram/Dakota and was slated to build the Rambox option that came from St. Louis. If Chrysler is to launch the 500 by 2011 they must make a decision soon.
The Belvidere Plant builds the Dodge Caliber which is still going to build the 2010 model.
There are a few good questions,which plant will lose their current production model? will Fiat build a new plant? or will production go to Mexico?

Channel 4 Fiat 500 Report--Video

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Meet the Dodge/Fiat 500

Here are some pics and stats of the super small car that is selling like crazy in Europe.The Fiat 500. Which would be rebadged to the Dodge 500 or maybe the Dodge Hornet???

To Shrink a U.S. Car, Chrysler Goes to Poland

To Shrink a U.S. Car, Chrysler Goes to Poland

TYCHY, Poland — For decades, automakers looking for the secret to small-car success would journey to Toyota City in Japan. These days, they are coming to Tychy.

Since Fiat effectively took over Chrysler this year, engineers from Detroit have been making monthly pilgrimages here to see something they can only envy: an auto plant that is hiring workers and earning a profit.

The mammoth Fiat plant here, which churned out nearly half a million cars last year, may hold some of the answers for Chrysler (as well as Ford Motor and General Motors), as it struggles to regain its footing after its bankruptcy and reduce its dependence on muscle-bound trucks and sport utility vehicles.

For those who remember Fiat before its ignominious retreat from the American market — the name was said to stand for “Fix It Again, Tony” — the Italian automaker may seem an unlikely role model. It left the United States in the early 1980s after widespread quality problems.

But Fiat itself has undergone a revolution under Sergio Marchionne, who became its chief executive in 2004, raising standards for quality and reliability at plants like Tychy and mastering the art of building smaller cars with high efficiency. Chrysler hopes he can do the same thing for it now that he has assumed control of the American company.

“We are lucky there is a crisis,” said the director of the Tychy plant, Zdzislaw Arlet, unable to resist a gibe at the bigger cars and trucks that have traditionally stolen the industry spotlight. “Everybody wants to build small cars now.”

At Tychy (pronounced TICK-ee), one secret is flexibility: The latest robotic technology is balanced by workers who can quickly shift models to match demand. That is one reason Tychy is operating around the clock, six days a week, while most other auto plants in Europe and the United States are running at a fraction of capacity, increasing costly nonproductive downtime.

Indeed, for visiting Chrysler engineers, going to Tychy is akin to an aging heavyweight boxer stepping into a gym where more agile bantamweight fighters train.

Chrysler’s smallest car, the Dodge Caliber compact, is one-third heavier (about 1,000 pounds) than the fast-selling Fiat 500, which is made exclusively at Tychy.

Fiat executives say their goal is not only to produce subcompact European models at Chrysler’s North American plants — but also for Chrysler managers to learn how to speed the introduction of smaller cars in the United States that Americans will want to buy, like a new version of the Sebring, while increasing efficiency the way Fiat has at Tychy.

Chrysler’s offerings, unlike those from Fiat, have long been dominated by Jeeps and S.U.V.’s and big trucks like the Dodge Ram, with cars making up just 30 percent of Chrysler’s worldwide sales last year. As bigger vehicles fell out of favor because of high gasoline prices and the recession, Chrysler’s overall sales dived, falling 44 percent in the first half of 2009 compared with the period a year earlier.

“It’s very difficult to go from big to small, but they are here to compare and learn,” Mr. Arlet said as he walked amid the sparks thrown off by robots along his production lines. “This plant was designed to produce small cars.”

The ideal combination of automated robots and individual workers has been critical to Tychy’s success, said Ron Harbour, an American industry consultant with Oliver Wyman, a consulting firm. Success is not as simple as the more robots, the better.

“With people, you can change the mix in one day or one week,” Mr. Harbour said, referring to the models a production line churns out. “You can’t do that with robots.”

The Tychy plant employs about 5,000 people, including about 1,700 hired last year to make more Fiats, as well as the Ford Ka.

Tychy’s huge scale — it covers more than 4.3 million square feet — also works to its advantage.

Although exact benchmarks are difficult, Mr. Harbour mentions Chrysler’s plant in Belvidere, Ill., as a comparable site, since it produces smaller cars. But its annual production capacity of 265,000 is just over half of the plant at Tychy.

Mr. Arlet is also constantly on the lookout for time- and money-saving improvements, adding that he himself looks to Toyota’s famous Kaizen system for inspiration: Instead of filling up cars at different production points with brake fluid, gasoline, water and other liquids, one machine on each of Tychy’s three lines fills each vehicle.

“A car comes off the assembly line every 55 seconds,” Mr. Arlet said. “In 1996, it took twice as long.”

Along with the new technology came a new focus on quality. About three years ago, workers were assigned an individual identification number that is stamped on whatever sections of the car they assemble so any problems at the end of the line can be traced to the source.

As a result, Mr. Arlet said, the number of cars coming off the line with defects has fallen from 20 percent in 1996 to just 4 percent now — a figure Mr. Harbour said compared favorably to factories in the United States or Western Europe.

“At the moment, Tychy is the best of Fiat as far as quality is concerned,” said Giuseppe Volpato, a professor of economics at the University of Venice who has long studied the company. “I think Poland is becoming the reference point for the whole organization, even in Italy.”

For Mr. Marchionne, turning around Chrysler will probably be harder than getting Fiat back on track. Chrysler not only relies on trucks and S.U.V.’s, it derives 75 percent of its sales from the now-moribund American market.

At the same time, Chrysler is facing increased pressure from Ford, as well as G.M., which emerged from bankruptcy last week. And of course, the original high-quality, small-car brands, like Toyota and Honda, remain fierce competitors, even if Toyota is suffering great losses of its own.

Partly because of the need to move quickly, the pace of cultural exchanges like the visits to Tychy has quickened since Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy on June 10. Fiat took a 20 percent stake in return for technology and know-how that the Italian automaker says is worth $10 billion in lieu of any cash.

Not only engineers and line managers are heading to Europe for the grand tour — so is the top brass.

Late last month, the executives responsible for Chrysler’s three brands, along with the heads of manufacturing, engineering and styling, traveled to a proving ground halfway between Milan and Turin for a weekend of meetings and motoring with their Italian counterparts.

Back in Tychy, Mr. Arlet seemed amazed at the tectonic shift under way in the global auto industry, with Americans coming to Poland in search of the secrets of carmaking, rather than the other way around.

With a confident smile, he declared, “I am looking forward to when the Fiat 500 is made in the U.S.A. and also made here, and we can compare.”