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Belvidere plant to be expanded

by David Zatz on

The Rockford Register Star reported that Chrysler has confirmed a 500,000 square foot addition to the Belvidere, Illinois assembly plant, to hold a larger body shop. A Chrysler manager said they did not know about the product that would be made there, but they knew they would need the space.

The city will speed construction by waiving permit and review fees; aldermen hired an outside firm to review the plans and assure compliance with city codes.

The Belvidere plant opened in 1965 and currently employs more than 2,300 workers on two shifts; 1,500 more people work at local suppliers. The plant currently builds the Dodge Caliber, Jeep Compass, and Jeep Patriot; at one time it was the world’s sole supplier of Plymouth and Dodge Neons.

The Caliber, Compass, and Patriot are to be replaced by new cars engineered by Chrysler, using a set of dimensions created by Fiat. The midsize and compact cars were engineered to be built in the same plant, on the same lines, thanks to certain common dimensions. As a result, Belvidere and possibly other plants – Toledo and possibly Sterling Heights – would all, in theory, be able to make the same sets of cars, greatly increasing Chrysler’s ability to respond quickly to market shifts. If the new midsized Dodge became a runaway hit, it could conceivably be made in two or three factories at once, at the same time as other models were made (this could also reduce the need to change colors as frequently – the company could make Belvidere the “red and white” plant for all models, Toledo the “red and black” plant, etc., saving money on paint and washes and reducing the environmental impact.)

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