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Published: Monday, 4/30/2001

New Jeep Liberty plant christening scheduled at 9 a.m.

Four years after Toledo showered the former Chrysler Corp. with valentines and $275 million in incentives, the state-of-the-art auto assembly plant that city boosters long sought will be dedicated this morning.

Dieter Zetsche, president of DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group, and area politicians will help inaugurate the car maker's $750 million Toledo North Assembly factory, 4400 Chrysler Dr., at 9 a.m. The ceremony is not open to the public.

News releases claim that the festivities will coincide with completion of the first customer-ready Jeep Liberty model, although the factory has been churning out models for weeks. Dealers are expecting receipt of some Libertys within a few weeks.

The German car maker hopes the Liberty, its latest entrant in the hot sport-utility vehicle category, will help solve a fiscal crisis that has cost the firm millions of dollars.

Dedication ceremonies take place against a backdrop of tension between city officials and the company over expected employment levels at the plant. Mayor Carty Finkbeiner charges that the company will fall far short of a target of 4,900 jobs. The car maker announced early last week that it will begin laying off up to 2,035 workers June 22.

The day's agenda includes speeches followed by a plant tour and lunch.

Among expected attendees are Tom Sidlek, Chrysler's general manager of Jeep operations, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), and Mayor Finkbeiner. Governor Taft was invited.

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