Chrysler once operated two plants out of Fenton, Missouri, called the St. Louis plants. St. Louis South, opened in 1959, made cars and minivans; the St. Louis North, opened in 1966, made trucks; and both closed within a similar span of time. with the St. Louis South plant shutting down on October 31, 2008, and the North plant closing on July 10, 2009.
The St. Louis plant was closed on October 31, 2008, leaving Windsor the sole minivan plant (as it had been in 1984). The failure of the Chrysler Pacifica to gain traction, coupled with customers’ rejection of the 2008 minivans, sealed St. Louis’ fate. The property was sold and the plant torn down.
Chrysler announced an investment of $1 billion in the St. Louis North and St. Louis South Assembly Plants in 2005, to modernize and re-tool the facilities.
The Fenton truck plant (St. Louis North) made B-series vans and wagons until 1980; it built the Dodge Ram (over a million of them) until all production was shifted to existing plants in Saltillo, Mexico and Warren, Michigan. The plant had recently won quality awards, and was originally the exclusive producer of RamBox equipped pickups. It had made the Ram 1500, Ram V10, and Ram diesels.
The car/minivan plant had opened in 1959, making the mainstream Plymouth and Dodge cars. It gained Valiant and Dart in 1960, making it one of the original small-car plants. in 1969, St. Louis South built 216,215 Belvideres, Coronets, Chargers, and Darts, easily dwarfing Newark, and edging out Belvidere (which, in fairness, only made Fury and Polara).
St. Louis made a wide variety of cars through the 1960s and 1970s. Rear wheel drive’s last year at the plant was 1981, with the LeBaron and Diplomat; from then on, the plant built the highly popular K-cars and numerous K-derivatives until 1991, when they made their last LeBaron coupe and convertible. In 1996, St. Louis was dedicated to making minivans, and continued to be minivan-only for its final 12 years.
The plant was closed when minivan sales dropped to the point where a single factory was needed; Windsor, where the minivan had started production, was chosen. Company insiders said the reasons for choosing Windsor included an “easier to manage” workforce and significantly higher quality, and some said that, while Windsor workers were paid more, overall costs were lower due to lower medical costs and other issues.
Photos of a LeBaron Convertible being built at St. Louis
The City of Fenton has several streets named after Chrysler cars, a tribute from the days when Chrysler paid immense amounts in property tax and employed thousands of local people.
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