The Story Behind the Rise of the All-New 2015 Chrysler 200
March 19, 2014
By all accounts, the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 should have never been built at the Sterling Heights (Mich.) Assembly Plant (SHAP).
Built in 1953 as a jet engine plant and operated by the U.S. Army as the Michigan Ordinance Missile Plant with Chrysler serving as contractor building Redstone and Jupiter missiles, SHAP was converted to an automobile plant in 1980 by Volkswagen and purchased by Chrysler Corporation in 1983.
In 2009, after 26 years of operation, SHAP was slated to close and the facility permanently mothballed as the result of the company’s bankruptcy plan.
Rags to Riches
In June 2009, as a new company emerged from bankruptcy, it was announced that the plant would close in December 2010. Community leaders and employees rallied together to rewrite the plant’s fate. Those efforts were rewarded with a decision in March 2010 to repurchase the plant, thereby extending production through 2012.
“Today is a historic day for this facility. Not more than 18 months ago, it was slated to close at the end of the year,” said Sergio Marchionne, Chairman and CEO of FCA US LLC . “Now, this plant will not only remain open beyond 2012 and retain jobs, but with the help of the State of Michigan and the City of Sterling Heights, we will make a significant investment in this facility to make it competitive with the best in the industry.” – December 6, 2010
An announcement in July 2010 that SHAP would remain open indefinitely and add a second shift of production (about 900 jobs) in the first quarter of 2011 gave new life to the facility and its employees.
Later that year, FCA US LLC confirmed that with continued growing demand and new product on the horizon, it would invest nearly $850 million to construct an all-new, state-of-the-art paint shop, as well as install new machinery, tooling and material-handling equipment. A second investment of $165 million for a new body shop was announced in October 2011.
The production of and the people who build the 2015 Chrysler 200 were recently celebrated at SHAP.
“This celebration has been a long time coming for the workforce here at Sterling Heights,” UAW President Bob King said. “They have proven that American autoworkers lead the world in building quality products. What has been achieved here is a testament to the collaborative spirit that exists between the UAW and FCA US.”
With the two new facilities, the plant is now one of the most flexible and state-of-the-art in the company with nearly 5 million square feet of manufacturing space or roughly the size of 87 football fields.That space includes the new paint shop at nearly 1 million sq. ft. and a new body shop, at just over 1 million sq. ft. As a result, SHAP is now capable of building multiple vehicles on two unique architectures.
With the launch of the Chrysler 200, SHAP has been able to add another 800 jobs as a result of in-sourcing of several critical processes, the additional content of the all-new 200 and the implementation of World Class Manufacturing.
Total employment at SHAP has grown to nearly 2,800, more than double what it was in 2009.