Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Chrysler to invest $28M in Machining

Move will save 200 of plant's 1,370 jobs


A top-ranking Chrysler LLC official said yesterday that the privately-held automaker plans to invest $28 million in the Toledo Machining plant in Perrysburg Township this year.
The investment - $26.4 million for redesigned torque converters and $1.5 million for new steering columns - is tied to the company's effort to increase gas mileage across its fleet.
The announcement was delivered by Tom W. LaSorda, Chrysler vice chairman and president, as he spoke to the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce's annual luncheon at the Pinnacle in Maumee.
The company said the $28 million investment will guarantee 200 jobs of the approximately 1,370 hourly jobs at the plant.
"The other [workers at the plant] will have ongoing work," David Ellshoff, a Chrysler spokesman, said afterward. "These are effectively new business guarantees. That's good news."
Lee Bainter, president of Local 1435, did not return calls for comment yesterday.
Currently, the plant builds steering columns and torque converters for vehicles across the Chrysler, Jeep, and Dodge product lines. The 1.2 million-square-foot factory opened in 1966 and had been slated to close. But Toledo Machining was thrown a lifeline during last year's labor talks between Chrysler and the United Auto Workers union.
The company agreed during bargaining to keep the plant open at least through the term of the contract in 2011.
In exchange, the union agreed to reduced wages for any new hires.
The new torque converters and steering columns are to be used in Chrysler front-wheel-drive, automatic-transmission vehicles.
"It's a new torque converter that we're going to be putting in for one of our future transmissions," Mr. LaSorda said during his speech. "It's part of our fuel-efficiency strategy. Timing and production, we haven't announced yet. We're keeping that under wraps."
The news for Machining comes just two weeks after Chrysler announced the indefinite layoff of 230 hourly employees at the plant as part of broader company reductions at five factories, including elimination of the third shift at the Toledo Jeep Assembly complex.
After his address, Mr. LaSorda said yesterday's announcement would not affect the layoffs, which the company attributed to falling sales and the soft national economy.
"Right now, the market's going to be tough in the first six or eight months of the year," Mr. LaSorda said. "We don't see a reversal of that for some time. If we do, we have the ability to work some overtime."

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