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I Believe …

Spirit of Detroit fuels comeback for Derrick Jones

August 12, 2014

Four excruciating months of couch-surfing and living out of a car is a harsh world away from the glamour, glitz and paparazzi of an international auto show stage.

Derrick Jones, a team member in the trim department at the Sterling Heights (Mich.) Assembly Plant (SHAP), was bursting with pride during press preview days at the 2014 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. He served as a SHAP and UAW Local 1700 representative at the reveal of the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 midsize sedan when it was introduced to the automotive press corps    Jan. 13.

“It was an honor to participate in such a monumental occasion,” says Jones.To be at the unveiling of this beautiful beast of a car – built by us – is a wonderful feeling.”

Three years earlier, almost to the day, Jones had hired into SHAP on the afternoon production shift. His opportunity at Chrysler had come at precisely the right time, seemingly an answer to his grandmother’s prayers.

“2010 had been a difficult year for me,” says Jones. “My entertainment career was waning, money was tight, my apartment lease had terminated and I was relegated to ‘couch surfing’ with friends and relatives for shelter. I was essentially living out of my 1998 Dodge Intrepid.”

Jones and his grandmother talked about his situation and job prospects while he was staying with her. Holding back tears as his grandmother prayed, Jones tried to stay hopeful.

“The very next day, I received an email from Chrysler. And here I am today,” he says.

Jones is honored to follow several of his relatives – an aunt, uncle and three cousins – into Chrysler employment.

A west side Detroit native and 2003 graduate of Southfield High School, Jones went on to study Business Management and Entrepreneurship at Ferris State University. Ultimately, he received his certification in radio and television broadcasting at the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts.

After college, Jones’ hip-hop musical career began to flourish on network television, in both programming and commercials. He travelled cross-country, performing for high school audiences to underscore the importance of higher education, while collecting more than 175,000 pounds of canned food for the Gleaners Community Food Banks. When the economy tumbled in 2009, his musical performances and touring came to an abrupt stop.

How did Jones go from production ‘newbie’ to representing the company, SHAP and the UAW onstage at NAIAS?

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    Derrick Jones being interviewed at the 2014 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit.

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    Derrick Jones in front of Comerica Park—an icon of Detroit—with a 2015 Chrysler 200.

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    Derrick Jones and Alexander Hopkins performing "I Believe" at the production launch of the 2015 Chrysler 200.

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    FCA US employees celebrate the production launch of the 2015 Chrysler 200 at the Sterling Heights (Mich.) Assembly Plant (SHAP).

“My production line role is to ensure that the car’s body is ready for installation of interior components. As a leader for the “I Believe” campaign, promoting unity, trust and loyalty to one another and the products we produce, I had the opportunity to present the campaign’s ideals and goals to both union and plant management.

“I Believe,” a hip-hop musical performance led by Jones and Local 1700 members Alexander Hopkins and Rickey Lawrence, set the upbeat tone for the March 14 town hall meeting that celebrated production of the new Chrysler 200.

“As a ‘newbie’ with fresh eyes, I was able to bring forward new ideas to motivate fellow team members. Because of this initiative, I was chosen to represent SHAP and the UAW at NAIAS.”

Jones takes special pride in the renaissance at SHAP, once slated for closure. The company’s investment of more than $1 billion in all-new body and paint shops and production robotics has reinvigorated this facility.

“Detroit and the auto industry had taken a hit and many of us were affected, as SHAP’s future was in jeopardy,” he says. “I’m proud to be part of this comeback story. It really needs to be told.”

What advice would Jones offer to a new SHAP recruit?

“I would encourage them to reach higher, as there are so many opportunities to learn and advance,” he says. “My learning accelerated when I arrived at SHAP as I’ve engaged in every type of training that has been offered, from safety to process and quality. This is a world-class company and to succeed here, you need a world-class attitude, too.”

Jones is passionate about the all-new Chrysler 200, with its combination of stylish design, cool features and responsive performance, at a price-point that will challenge other brands in this ultra-competitive market segment.

“These cars are like our babies,” he says. “We’re like the proud parents whose child just scored the winning point in the final seconds of the game. I love the sleek looks of the new 200, but the thing I’m most proud of is the Detroit skyline embossed in the center console. It serves as a permanent stamp of approval that this car was born in the Motor City.”

Just like Derrick Jones.

Read more about Derrick Jones and his journey with FCA US LLC online at www.tomorrowextra.com.