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Published: 5/25/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Obama plans to visit local Chrysler plant

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
President Barack Obama arrives at 10 Downing Street in London, the official residence of Britain's prime minister, on Wednesday. The White House said he will be in Toledo next week. President Barack Obama arrives at 10 Downing Street in London, the official residence of Britain's prime minister, on Wednesday. The White House said he will be in Toledo next week.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

President Barack Obama will visit a Chrysler Group LLC’s plant in metro Toledo June 3, a White House official said Wednesday morning.

The reason for the visit and its location, date and time was not specified by the White House official, who spoke on background. The official said details of the visit were still being worked out with Chrysler.

A Chrysler spokesman would confirm only that the President would visit one of its Toledo area plants late next week, and that Chrysler executives would be on hand to greet the nation’s leader.

It could be that Chrysler will announce its much-anticipated future plans for its Toledo Assembly complex, which currently produces the Jeep Wrangler in one set of factories and the Jeep Liberty and Dodge Nitro SUVs in a neighboring factory. The latter is the only Chrysler assembly plant working only one shift.

Or the visit could be to reveal expected upgrade and investment plans at the automaker’s Toledo Machining Plant in Perrysburg Township.

Chrysler celebrated its early repayment of $7.6 billion in loans taken out in 2009 from the United States, Canadian, and Ontario provincial governments on Tuesday during a ceremony at the automaker’s Sterling Heights, Mich. 

However, President Obama — who originally approved the loan package that allowed Chrysler to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy — was on a scheduled visit to Europe at the time and sent Ron Bloom, a member of his automotive task force, in his place.

Chrysler has not yet announced its long-term plans for its Toledo Assembly complex, its newest and most flexible assembly facility in its production portfolio, but Sergio Marchionne, Chrysler’s chief executive officer, said in January that he expected to make an announcement here “within six months.” The company has announced more than $3 billion in additional investments in its manufacturing portfolio since it emerged from bankruptcy in June, 2009.

This week, work crews were spotted taking deep soil borings, an early indication of site preparation work, in the complex’s southern parking lot, which can be seen from the southbound lanes of I-75.

Toledo Assembly employs 2,500 workers, either Chrysler or on-site suppliers.The Wrangler plant at the complex was twice recognized by the prestigious Harbour Report as the most productive assembly plant in North America among all automakers.

Bruce Baumhower, president of United Auto Workers Local 12, revealed Tuesday that workers at the plant learned just last week that they had tied with their colleagues in Belvidere, Ill. for the highest score in the United States on Chrysler’s World Class Manufacturing point system. The Fiat-derived measurement system is used by Chrysler to score plant productivity and continuous improvement processes, and is seen as a key metric by Chrysler executives in their production decisions.

The Toledo Machining Plant produces steering columns and torque converters for vehicles across Chrysler’s product lineup. Analysts believe the plant is due for an additional upgrade because Chrysler has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into improving its engine and transmission lineup, but hasn’t yet upgraded the torque converters that deliver those improvements efficiently to the automobile.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:
lvellequette@theblade.com or
419-724-6091



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