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Chrysler to fast-track redesigns

by Bill Cawthon on

Included in the five-year plan Chrysler will release on November 4 is a requirement for refreshing or redesigning seven models by late spring 2011. The ambitious timetable, about half the time normally allotted for such projects, will require the automaker to staff up in departments that were nearly stripped of personnel while Chrysler’s former owner, Cerberus Capital Management LLC, sought to conserve cash.

During Cerberus’ ownership, new product development almost stopped. This has left the company with little new product for the 2010 model year, putting it at a disadvantage compared to its competitors and making it difficult for dealers to attract buyers to showrooms in what remains a very tough market.

Chrysler has already told its employees in several departments that they will be working long hours in the coming months and has recalled 14 union designers. The company will be adding workers but has declined to say whether it will rehire former employees or use contract labor.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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