Chrysler Group LLC said Friday that it will add nearly 900 jobs at a factory in suburban Detroit and spare it from a planned closure. The decision is a show of optimism that consumers will embrace the company's refurbished midsize sedans.
The automaker made the announcement at another Detroit-area plant just before President Barack Obama spoke there about the success of the government-funded auto industry bailout.
The jobs will staff a second shift at Chrysler's assembly plant in Sterling Heights, Mich., just north of Detroit, which makes the slow-selling Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring midsize sedans.
In the fall, the company plans to start selling new versions of the cars that it says will be updated from top to bottom. The second shift will begin in the first quarter of next year, Chrysler said.
Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters that the Sterling Heights factory will stay open beyond its planned closing date in 2012. In addition to the updated Sebring and Avenger, the plant will get the next-generation Chrysler midsize car that will be on a new undercarriage, Marchionne said.
Companies that make parts for the Sebring and Avenger, and the Sebring convertible, which also is built at the plant, are expected to add 500 jobs.
The announcement was made at the Jefferson North factory in Detroit where the Jeep Grand Cherokee is made. Obama toured the plant and later Friday was to visit a General Motors factory that makes the Chevrolet Volt rechargeable electric car.
The company "probably" will add a third shift to the Jefferson North plant after it starts making a new Dodge Durango sport utility vehicle in the fourth quarter. But that will depend on demand for the new vehicle, Marchionne said.
It recently added about 1,100 workers at the plant for a second shift to make the Grand Cherokee.
Marchionne said the additional jobs at Sterling Heights would be a combination of laid-off workers from other factories and new hires. He said he did not know how many jobs would be created but said some of the new hires will make around $14 an hour, about half the pay of older workers.
Workers from factories that Chrysler is closing in Twinsburg, Ohio, near Cleveland; Racine, Wis., near Milwaukee; and in Detroit will be offered jobs in Sterling Heights, Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said.
The number of new hires depends on how many workers from the plants that are closing decide to move or retire, she said.
Through June, Chrysler sold just over 42,000 Sebrings and Avengers combined. But that was far behind the 154,000 midsize Camrys sold by Toyota Motor Corp. The Camry is the top-selling car in the U.S.
The Sterling Heights plant currently employs 1,270 workers on one shift.
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