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Making Grand Cherokees at Jefferson North, 2010Main Jefferson North page
The Jefferson Avenue plant stands close to a plant that ran for 83 years, making 8.3 million cars for Chalmers, Maxwell, Imperial, Dodge, DeSoto, and Plymouth, closing around 1990. Jefferson Avenue North plant has made Grand Cherokees, Grand Cherokee-based Commanders, and Grand Cherokee-based Durangos — and nothing else.
by Christopher Chrouch
Jefferson North Assembly Plant (JNAP) has been manufacturing Chrysler vehicles since January 1992, starting with a 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee. 21 years later, workers on hand celebrated and cheered as the plant’s 5,000,000th vehicle was built in the motor city. On display for the assembled guests was an original 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee, one of the first made, with around 8,000 miles on the clock.
Chrysler’s “JNAP” opened with 1.75 million square feet of manufacturing space, and has since expanded to over three million. The plant originally had 1,600 employees on two shifts, and now has over 4,500 workers on three shifts, for 120 hours of production every week.
I had the opportunity to visit JNAP in 2011, when Chrysler group was beginning to roll out WCM. The attitude of the workers in the plant was inspiring as they joked and laughed, everyone smiling and coming together to build a world class set of vehicles (Jeep Grand Cherokee, SRT Grand Cherokee, and Dodge Durango). Two years later, the attitudes and smiles of the workers are even brighter.
Chrysler invited 30 year veterans to attend this morning’s celebration; most have been at the plant since it opened.
Manufacturing chief Scott Gaberding said, “I had the privilege of being plant manager here in 2000, working alongside this very skilled workforce. Now as the head of manufacturing, I continue to be impressed by the commitment that is demonstrated here every day. As sales of the Grand Cherokee continue to increase to record levels, we are asking our employees to do more and they have responded by rising to the challenge. They are the heart and soul of this plant and this company, and have been entrusted to build a vehicle that is critical to the continued success of Chrysler Group.”
Chrysler will donate the 5,000,000th vehicle, a billet silver Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland, to the USO as part of the partnership that continues Jeep’s commitment to the military by providing support and aid to returning troops.
“In 1991, when this plant was built and preparing to produce the first Jeep Grand Cherokee, the USO was celebrating its 50th anniversary of supporting our troops, so it seemed obvious to us at Jeep was by donating a new 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee to our partners at the USOs” said Mike Manley, head of Jeep. “The USO and Jeep, both founded in 1941, share a common history and commitment to supporting our military men and women. We’re honored to support the USO as they continue their dedication to lifting the spirits of American troops and families.”
The Jeep Grand Cherokee will be used by the USO at its facilities in Pensacola, Florida and outfitted with a commemorative plaque signed by CEO Sergio Marchionne to show its very special history.
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