Chrysler plans to add 1,000 jobs at Michigan pickup truck plant

The Chrysler side of DaimlerChrysler AG is adding a third shift of workers at an assembly plant outside Detroit MI to help meet demand for its Dodge Ram pickup truck — a rare bit of good news for the battered United States auto sector.

This expansion will result in the addition of 1,000 jobs at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant in July 2003.

The company will invest about $35 million to boost annual production capacity at the plant by 60,000 units, or 21%, to a total of about 338,000 units.

Redesigned in 2001, the Ram is one of Chrysler's best-selling and most profitable vehicles and vital to its bottom line.

The decision marks something of a reversal of fortune for Chrysler and the United Auto Workers union since it means the Number 3 US automaker, which announced 26,000 layoffs as part of a sweeping restructuring plan in 2001, will add jobs again.

The plant expansion was announced to cheering workers recently at the Warren facility where Nate Gooden, vice-president and director of the UAW's DaimlerChrysler department, gave a brief address.

Gooden said the addition of jobs at the plant would come shortly before Chrysler and other US automakers will enter talks with the UAW toward a new contract in September 2003.

Senior Chrysler officials have said they expect the automaker to return to a profit this year after a loss of nearly $2 billion in 2001. Some analysts say the UAW may see next year's talks as an opportunity to win back more jobs at Chrysler.

Chrysler officials said they expect to staff the Warren Truck plant with employees from other facilities but would also be looking at new hires. The plant, which also assembles the Dakota pickup truck, currently employs about 4,000 people.

Tom LaSorda, Chrysler's executive vice-president for manufacturing, said the added capacity also would give the company more production flexibility. But he stressed that the move was primarily to meet demand for the Ram, whose sales were up 26% in the third quarter compared with a year earlier.

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