1,500 workers to be added to Ill. Plant for Jeep, Dodge Dart production

Feb 11, 2012

From Larry P. Vellequette, Automotive News

Chrysler Group will produce more units of the Jeep Compass and Patriot and start production of the new Dodge Dart with 1,800 new hires at its assembly plant in Belvidere, Ill.

The sporty, small 2013 Dodge Dart sedan, built as a joint Chrysler-Fiat vehicle on an Alfa Romeo Giulietta chassis, could be an aftermarket installers’ delight, as the automaker has great hopes for its strong sales success.

Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne told workers in early February that the automaker will invest an additional $100 million in Belvidere Assembly’s body shop, bringing total recent investment there to $700 million.

Chrysler employs 2,500 production workers at the Illinois factory and a nearby stamping plant. About 500 of the new employees are needed for Dart production, and the rest are required so the plant can meet increased demand for two other vehicles, the automaker said.

The Illinois plant also produces the Jeep Compass and Patriot. Production of the Dart will begin this spring.

The plant will switch to the so-called 3/2/120 production schedule, under which workers put in four 10-hour shifts per week and cycle regularly from days to evenings. The schedule allows Chrysler to reduce overtime costs significantly by providing an added 49 days of production a year at straight-time rates.

The hiring plans suggest Chrysler is confident about sales prospects for the Dodge Dart, a replacement for the Caliber hatchback. U.S. sales of the Compass tripled last year to 47,709, and demand for the Patriot rose 42% over 2010 to 54,647 units.