SHAP to produce new Chrysler 200 series

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published January 17, 2014

 Observers look at a blue Chrysler 200S on display at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit Jan. 13.

Observers look at a blue Chrysler 200S on display at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit Jan. 13.

Photo by Eric Czarnik

The Sterling Heights Assembly Plant’s comeback and rise in Sterling Heights has entered a new phase as the plant is now prepared to manufacture the 2015 versions of the Chrysler 200.

At a Jan. 13 media preview of the 2014 North American International Auto Show, Chrysler Group LLC announced that its 200C and the 200S cars will soon come cranking out of the Sterling Heights factory.

Andy Love, Chrysler’s head of the 200 brand’s marketing, said he could not give out production volumes regarding the 200 series and the assembly plant.

Chrysler corporate communications manager Val Oehmke said the assembly plant has made the 2014 Chrysler 200, and it is currently making that vehicle and the 2014 Dodge Avenger — though she said they expect to stop making those vehicles at the end of the quarter.

She said the 2015 Chrysler 200 series will officially enter production by the second quarter of this year.

“The facility has been up and running,” she said. “You’ve got to make a certain amount of pilots and preproduction models before we start the actual series.”

The plant teetered on shutting down after the recession but was saved by Chrysler after it emerged anew out of bankruptcy.

In 2010, hopeful indicators among sedan sales led the company to re-buy the plant and keep it in operation until 2012. Later in 2010, Chrysler said it would keep the plant open for good, and also announced plans to invest almost $850 million to build a new paint facility and purchase other machines and equipment.

Near the end of 2011, the company announced it would invest $165 million to create a new body shop.

Chrysler credits the upgraded plant for helping make the 200 series quieter on the inside due to “world-class sealing.” Company officials also said the paint facility’s powder spraying and painting methods are better for the environment, since they do not emit volatile organic compounds.

Throughout the design of the new plant features, company officials say, they have been committed to “world-class manufacturing” standards, which they started introducing despite the plant’s shaky future in 2009. The standards aim to boost productivity and reduce waste, and officials hope the plant earns a bronze ranking for abiding by these standards.

According to Oehmke, Chrysler Group LLC emerged in 2009 to form a global strategic alliance with the Italian auto company Fiat.

Fiat recently moved to buy Chrysler assets as part of a deal with the UAW.