The third largest US automaker – FCA US, previously known as Chrysler – has begun its largest factory overhaul for the Windsor Assembly Plant since the late 1980s, with new tools and equipment ready to assist workers in the production of the next-generation group minivan.
Company officials recently announced that no less than 80% of the equipment at the facility’s body shop and assembly line will be renewed by the time production is resumed sometimes this May. The 4.4-million-square-foot plant, which started building cars and trucks back in 1928, will be crawling over the next 14 weeks with more than 1,500 contractors. The robot tally will surge to 822 new robots for the body shop, for example. The assembly area, on the other hand, will be equipped with a new “skillet” line – designed to adjust the shell of the car to match the height of workers – replacing the old overhead conveyor. The upgrades are part of a planned $2 billion investment from FCA US into the plant and Windsor town.
The decision to completely overhaul the factory is also a testament to the auto industry’s resurgence in North America in general, and Chrysler’s recovery in particular – soaring from a bankrupt company to an automaker that posts four years of monthly year-over-year delivery increases. FCA also wants to retain leadership over the minivan segment, though the next generation will lower the nameplate count from two to just one – the Dodge Caravan will be axed and a successor will be unveiled under the Chrysler brand alone.