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The move begins

by David Zatz on

The factory shuffle has begun in earnest, according to FCA sources. With production of the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 stopped, the company has begun to move equipment from Sterling Heights, Michigan to Belvidere, Illinois.

Belvidere's Millionth

The Dart and 200 were both “CUSW” designs, as is the Jeep Cherokee, so much of the equipment is compatible; robots must be reprogrammed and refitted, but it’s likely that the Dart and 200 used many of the same robots as the Cherokee. By starting now, the company is both clearing space at Sterling Heights, easing its conversion to Ram production, and extending the length of time Toledo can keep making Cherokees before the final move.

The factory shuffle will be expensive, but perhaps not as expensive as trying to keep making Rams at the aging, capacity-constrained Warren plant and restricting Wrangler sales; or building completely new factories. If nothing else, repurposing existing plants is environmentally friendly — as opposed to building new plants over existing farmland, as import automakers usually do.

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