It was a party as the red carpet was rolled out for the brand new Dodge Calibur and this celebration is resonating throughout the entire company because the newest generation of auto manufacturing for Chrysler is starting right here in Belvidere.
"You're the first team in our system to execute innovative manufacturing process that will be a competitive advantage for the Chrysler group," says Executive Vice President Frank Ewasyshyn.
"The Belvidere Assembly Plant is the first Chrysler group manufacturing plant to use a body shop comprised entirely of robotics. The 780 new robots in Belvidere's body shop can make necessary tool changes automatically within a 45 second time table."
Chysler leaders say new, innovative processes, new equipment the newest models and more jobs are coming to Belvidere because of one significant factor, the workforce. That's been recognized inside and outside of the industry...
"The work ethic is outstanding. The ideas the folks come up with our amazing. It's the people that make the plant, they're wonderful," says Belvidere Assembly Plant Manager Kurt Kavajecz.
The plant will launch a second shift next month adding around 1,000 jobs. Later this year, production will start on the Jeep Compass and leaders are hinting that production of another model is on the way.
"It's really the largest team based structure we've ever introduced in the company. A brand new way of working together. So, we've got a new process, new way of doing business, a brand new car--second one coming--and who knows what else, says Ewasyshyn.
Leaders believe the small, fuel-efficient car will be well received in the market and if that's the case plans for a 3rd shift could be put in place...
$419 million dollars was spent on the Belvidere plant's makeover. The state kicked in $36 million.