Chrysler's Belvidere Assembly and Stamping Plant
This plant, which is right off Route 90 and Route 20 in Illinois, built nearly a million Neons from through to February 1998. Its first product, starting in 1965, was the full-sized Plymouth Fury
and Dodge Monaco
wagons. After the Neon, it made the Dodge Caliber, Jeep Patriot, Jeep Compass, Dodge Dart, and (currently) the Jeep Cherokee.
The plant was named after the city it was in, with no relation to the Belvidere car, which was reportedly named after the hotel. It made rear wheel drive cars until 1977; after that, it switched to making L-body cars, including the Horizon, Omni, O24, TC3, Charger, Turismo, and Duster. A single year after Chrysler's cheapest models left the plant, the corporation's priciest cars moved in: the Imperial, Fifth Avenue, New Yorker, and Dynasty. They were succeeded again by the corporation's least expensive car, the Neon, which was replaced by the entry-level Caliber, Compass, and Patriot.
When making Omnis and Horizons, the Belvidere plant used Simca
engines (designed while under Chrysler ownership); these were built in Poissy, France, tested in Paris, and shipped to Belvidere, where they were "dressed" with a carburetor and accessories and installed in the L-bodies.
Employees from the Belvidere Assembly Plant took part in a 90-day, one-million mile Neon ride-and-drive verification program that began in September 1993. One hundred volunteer assembly workers rotated through 50 cars every day - in two eight-hour shifts - over a variety of road conditions. The goal was to put at least 12,000 miles on most of the cars, up to 36,000 miles on as many as possible and 100,000 miles on at least two of them, and to find what would fail.
|Horizon / Omni ||1977-87|
|O24, TC3, Charger, Turismo, Duster||1979-1987|
|Dynasty/New Yorker/Imperial/Fifth Avenue||1988-1993|
|Caliber, Compass, Patriot||2006-??|
In late 1993, Belvidere had 3.3 million square feet of floor space covering 280 acres. The plant began Neon production on November 10, 1993, with numerous manufacturing firsts
. 3,250 hourly and 250 salaried employees were on staff, with an average age of 48 years and 23 years average length of service; their combined payroll was $231 million in 1992, when they built 125,000 cars. At the time, 380 robots were used; the plant had built 5.9 million vehicles before starting on the Neon.
Production of the Dodge, Plymouth and internationally-sold Chrysler Neons began in November 1993. The plant employed 3,480 people and produced approximately 1,064 Neons daily. Neons were also made in Toluca, Mexico.
With the Neon, Chrysler's Belvidere satellite fascia plant was designed and supported by the Davidson division of Textron. Numerous supplier suggestions resulted in savings of millions of dollars in Neon production; these are detailed in our SCORE page
Before the Neon went into production, a team of manufacturing, engineering,
and procurement people visited key suppliers to make sure they were ready to launch. A materials management work team was set up; they replaced the cardboard boxes originally used to receive parts with reusable plastic containers that were shipped back to suppliers when emptied. Overall, the plant eliminated 95% of the waste materials, reducing environmental impact and saving the plant hundreds of thousands of dollars over time. Parts were also less likely to be damaged in transit.
The "Checkerboard Square" set up at Belvidere
let the manufacturing engineers figure out the ergonomics and technical issues surrounding construction of new cars in advance, at a much lower cost than planning it out on computer models, building, and then moving things around as needed. Chrysler can get over manufacturing hurdles before ordering tooling, and before shutting down a factory for changeover to a new model.
In December 1997, a new $45 million Verson Type A+ stamping press began operation at the satellite stamping facility which adjoins the main assembly plant. In summer 1997, a new $45 million Powder Anti-Chip paint system was added.
The Verson Type A+ stamping press was the largest manufactured in the United States. Installing the press, which was the size of 12 locomotives, required an additional 60,000 square feet to the plant at a cost of $10 million. Initially, the new press was used for stamping front and rear Neon doors; it was to be used later for stamping full side-aperatures and fenders for a different model.
The Powder Anti-Chip paint system allowed for improved chip resistance, durability, and overall quality and finish on all vehicles produced at the Belvidere plant. A building addition of 72,000 square feet was required for the $45 million investment that upgraded Belvidere's paint system to state-of-the-art paint technology. This process, coupled with the water-borne base coat system already in place, made Belvidere one of the most environmentally-friendly automobile plants in the nation, at the time. These new paint processes have greatly reduced the VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions and waste by-products associated with earlier paint systems.
| ||U.S. Neon Sales|| ||Belvidere Production|