By Patrick Rall
Business is good for the Chrysler Group right now… so good that the company has decided to cancel the scheduled summer “downtime” for a handful of plants around the country. The company’s three busiest vehicle assembly plants right now are Jefferson North in Detroit, Connor Avenue in Detroit and Toledo North in Toledo Ohio so these three plants – along with all but one of the engine, transmission and stamping plants around the country – will stay open through the summer.
Summer downtime is typically the period in the year when assembly plants are retooled and prepared for the new production year of vehicles from the given plant. In Chrysler’s words, downtime is held “in order to implement improvement projects to support future production”.
For example, the Connor Avenue Plant will begin building the 2014 model year SRT Viper in July so shortly before then, the assembly line will undergo any changes required for the new model year. In the Viper’s case, there aren’t any significant changes planned so Connor Ave doesn’t need that week off for retooling. At Jefferson North in Detroit, there will be only minor retooling needed as the plant prepares to build the refreshed Dodge Durango. The refreshed Jeep Grand Cherokee is already in production so there shouldn’t be any retooling needs for that model. Finally, the Toledo North plant where the 2014 Jeep Cherokee is being built alongside the Jeep Wrangler likely doesn’t need much summer retooling since the Cherokee is already in the works and the Wrangler really hasn’t changed much during this generation. For these three plants, any changes needed for the 2014 model year will be done on the fly while the plant is operating at normal capacity.
All other North American production facilities including those in Canada, the US and Mexico will observe at least part of their originally scheduled summer downtime.
Not only is summer downtime a good time for Chrysler to retool and improve plants for new model year vehicles but it is also a great way for the company to cut labor costs a bit in the middle of the year. During the recession of 2008, Chrysler idled plants to save labor costs while demand was low. The fact that the company is keeping so many workers in the plants through the summer is a great sign of the continued growth of the Chrysler Group brands.