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Sergio Marchionne speaks at Brampton Assembly Plant

by Bill Cawthon on

Good morning, and a Happy New Year to all of you.

Being here, close to the home of my youth in Toronto, brings back many personal thoughts and remembrances for me. I spent my adolescence and accumulated roughly half of my professional experience here in Canada.

Often our days are so busy that we don’t have time – or perhaps don’t allow ourselves the time – to think about how the road we’ve travelled has made us who we are.

But sometimes life does give us moments where we have the opportunity to pause and reflect.

I came to Toronto for the first time as a boy more than 40 years ago, together with my family.

We still debate the reasons for coming.

Two things it certainly gave us were the opportunity to reunite my mother’s family and the chance for my sister and me to experience a new way of life, unhampered by what my father saw as an overly confining social environment in Italy, where connections and status counted more than talent.

It is part of our human nature to feel optimistic about a fresh start – whether it involves moving to a new country, or entering a new year.

The “book” of 2011 is still a blank document, and we hope it will turn out to be an interesting and fulfilling story.

My own positive feelings about starting a new year are heightened today as a result of coming to this revitalized facility … seeing the two outstanding all-new vehicles that are beginning production and a third that has awakened a passion for muscle cars … and feeling the immense enthusiasm of the team here.

You can sense the confidence growing throughout Chrysler Group as we live up to our commitments and have begun to win recognition for our hard work. Just to cite one example, two of the three finalists for North American Truck of the Year are our Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango. The winner will be announced Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

We are eagerly anticipating the market’s reception for the all-new Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger built here at Brampton, as well as the other 14 all-new or significantly refreshed products we debuted in 2010 – most of them in the fourth quarter.

But before talking more about the year ahead, I want to acknowledge some special guests who are here today.

The assistance of the Canadian federal and Ontario provincial governments gave us the opportunity to create a future. Chrysler Group owes a deep debt of gratitude to taxpayers in Canada and the U.S. for the loans that enabled a vibrant, restructured company to emerge in June 2009.

We recognize we have a moral responsibility to fulfil our promises and justify these investments.

I’d like to welcome Ontario’s Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan, who provided crucial support in helping put Chrysler back on a viable path.

I’m also pleased Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell is here today, as this is an important event for the community.

I also want to thank Ken Lewenza, President of the CAW, for joining us today. The success of this plant and these new cars are important to our collective future.

The collaboration of industry, government and labor helped breathe life into Chrysler and help preserve more than 2,500 jobs at Brampton Assembly and the Brampton Satellite Stamping Plant. It is proof that we can achieve something solid and long lasting when all parties recognize the need to come together in good faith.

The English poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.”

This sums up my belief that communities and organizations thrive only when people recognize their inter-dependence. It also describes the very pragmatic partnership we have with the CAW.

The reality is that union jobs depend on Chrysler’s ability to be able to successfully sell its products. At the same time, management understands the need for the people in our plants to bring their intelligence, their creativity and their commitment to work every day in order to improve what we make and the way we make it.

World Class Manufacturing, or WCM, is being implemented here at Brampton, as well as our other plants. It is a system that depends on the full support of the union and full engagement of workers at all levels, who are empowered to take ownership of the process.

The goals of WCM are to improve safety, efficiency, quality and flexibility by rooting out waste in all forms. On its most basic level, WCM reflects the fundamental values of self-respect, respect for others and for the environment.

This is why WCM is a true agent of change for our company.

Putting dignity back into the workplace is an important part of WCM. This 24-year-old facility has been thoroughly rejuvenated with high-efficiency lighting, upgraded cafeteria, remodeled bathrooms and freshly painted walls. This is all part of making the workplace a place you can feel positive about, a place you can proudly take your kids to and show them where you work.

The WCM rollout here included more than 30,000 hours of training focused on the principles of the system and how to begin identifying and attacking waste and losses on the line.

Since the inception of WCM, Brampton team members have offered more than 5,000 suggestions for improvements.

Q-Teams – or Quality Teams – focus on critical parts of the product and process to validate product quality and to correct issues of concern.

We have also invested $20 million dollars in a new Metrology Center. This 35,000-square-foot facility has state-of-the-art inspection equipment used to measure and validate a vehicle’s entire sheet metal structure to the smallest of tolerances, even as thin as a human hair.

In addition, Brampton has invested nearly $12 million dollars to be the first Chrysler plant to install a new roof laser braze process, which uses an intense laser-light beam to enable a seamless transition from the roof to the door opening. This is a technology that will help us achieve best-in-class sculptural appearance.

For 86 years, our Canadian operations have played a vital role in helping Chrysler meet the challenges of competition. Today, Chrysler has 9,000 employees in Canada, buys parts from 271 Canadian facilities and has 440 dealers in the country.

The Canadian market is responding positively to Chrysler Group products. We’ve had 13 straight months of year-over-year growth. Altogether, our 2010 sales in Canada increased 26 percent compared with 2009, including the highest year-over-year growth in Chrysler Canada history of nearly 42,000 units.

As a result, Chrysler Canada gained two percentage points of share – more than any other automaker – increasing its market share to 13 percent.

We’re confident that buyers in Canada, as well as elsewhere, will embrace the two all-new vehicles that are coming off the line here.

The 300 is the flagship of the Chrysler brand. This all-new 2011 model has a lot to live up to, as its predecessor was the most awarded vehicle in North American automobile history. A tough assignment, but I think you will agree that it is up to the challenge.

The Chrysler 300 once again features head turning styling. Its elegantly sculptured proportions and additional design refinement give it a more tailored appearance, and the new Chrysler winged badge logo adorns this vehicle.

The interior is substantially upgraded, befitting an iconic luxury sedan. It combines expressive style, authentic materials, passenger comfort features and precise fit and finish.

The all-new Chrysler 300 features an 8.4-inch Uconnect Touch infotainment center, the largest standard touchscreen display in the segment. With capabilities such as navigation, dual-zone climate controls, and the ability to personalize convenience features, Uconnect Touch keeps passengers connected, comfortable and secure.

The all-new 2011 Dodge Charger targets customers who are young at heart and who are passionate about driving.

It has a contemporary fastback four-door coupe proportions with iconic Dodge performance cues designed to strike the emotional chords of enthusiasts.

The Charger embodies the Dodge brand promise of a distinctively North American performance machine with outstanding driving dynamics and modern technology.

Its all-new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engines provides world-class efficiency, with substantially more horsepower and torque than its predecessor without compromising fuel economy. The legendary 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 with FuelSaver technology delivers best-in-class power and fuel economy of 35 miles per imperial gallon. The Charger’s world-class structural stiffness also contributes to outstanding ride and handling.

Customers also will be pleased with the Charger’s exceptional craftsmanship, interior quietness, state-of-the-art technologies and the sort of premium materials you expect to find in an elite sport sedan.

With the launch of the 2011 Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger, we are taking another important step on the journey to build a sustainable future for Chrysler Group.

I want to express my gratitude to the men and women here at Brampton for keeping the faith and for your dedicated efforts to help transform your workplace and your company. What you do every day matters to the future of your company, your community, your 50,000 fellow employees and the hundreds of thousands who work in related industries.

Thank you very much.

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 just-auto.com, 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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