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Published: Tuesday, 1/11/2011

Big investment coming for Toledo, Chrysler CEO says

DETROIT – The head of Chrysler Group LLC said Tuesday the automaker's operations in Toledo would see a significant announcement of new investment and jobs within the first half of 2011 and that the chances “were better than 50 percent” that workers making Wranglers in Toledo could soon be making a Jeep-branded pickup as well.

Sergio Marchionne, the enigmatic chief executive officer of both Chrysler and its Italian partner, Fiat SpA, told The Blade Tuesday that the Toledo-made Jeep Liberty is being redesigned right now, and that he expects to have some news for Toledo soon about expanding the output of its Toledo North Assembly plant.

“It is my sincere hope that we can give you clarity within this year, hopefully within the first six months. We understand the issue, and I like the plants. Those are good plants, and what we've done there is good,” Mr. Marchionne said.

The Chrysler CEO also said that “chances were better than 50 percent” that a Jeep-branded pickup similar to the automaker's 2005 Jeep Gladiator concept would be built alongside the Wrangler, despite protests from Chrysler's truck-only Ram brand.

“I like that truck,” Mr. Marchionne said. “There is room at that [Wrangler] plant.”

Bruce Baumhower, President of UAW Local 12, welcomed Mr. Marchionne's words about the automaker's Toledo operations, its workforce, and its potential expansion.

“You know, what Chrysler's done in the last couple years has been amazing, and I think Toledo's going to be a major part of their turnaround,” Mr. Baumhower said.

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