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Published: Tuesday, 2/8/2011

Labor secretary touts Jeep workers' enthusiasm, innovation

Speaking to reporters from a podium in the Wrangler plant's final assembly area during a lunchtime break, the Labor Secretary said it was “good to see the productivity, the innovation occurring here at this Chrysler Jeep plant, and to see the enthusiasm of the workers. Now, through innovation and techniques that are being used, they're more efficient, they're curbing problems that might come up with ergonomics, especially trying to make sure that they minimize [injuries].”

Ms. Solis pointed to the plant's economic role in Toledo and beyond, and hinted at a production expansion for the plant that was addressed last month by Chrysler executives in Detroit.

“What's wonderful about all of this is that this is a shot in the arm for our economy and the world, because these items here that are being produced, the [Jeep Wrangler], is not just sent here in the local area or in the United States. [This] is a product that is obviously of great interest in many other countries,” Ms. Solis said.

“That's what I liked hearing from [Toledo Assembly Complex Plant Manager Mauro] Pino earlier, that they are actually going to be upping their production and doing more, and they've exceeded what they projected last year, and therefore seeing that there's more interest in this particular vehicle.”

Mr. Pino later clarified that the “increased production” he addressed had to do with the daily and yearly output of the Wrangler plant, which produced 134,000 units in 2010, up from just under 100,000 units in 2009, to keep up with customer demand. Wrangler sales in the U.S. grew 15 percent in 2010, and 32 percent in January, over the same period a year ago. The facility's two other products, the Jeep Liberty and Dodge Nitro, also had double-digit increases during the last 13 months.

The Labor Secretary was scheduled to tour a startup solar panel plant in Perrysburg later Tuesday afternoon.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at

lvellequette@theblade.com or

419-724-6091



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