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Chrysler's Jefferson Avenue Plant: 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Launch

by Ben Case • Photos by Ben Case and J.P. Joans • Video by J.P. Joans

The first thing one notices about the Jefferson Avenue North plant where the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is made is the long-delayed erasure of the word "Daimler" from every sign and from the delivery trucks. While Cerberus claimed there was no money for such actions, Chrysler people found a way... once Cerberus left.

Below, a Jeep body is dropped onto a Pentastar engine-equipped chassis. The line was not working at full speed through the day, but it was activated, presumably at a lower than usual speed, to allow TV reporters to get video and to show reporters how the robots and people work.

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J.P. Joans shot three videos. One shows the massive size of the plant; one shows the bodies moving down the assembly line, with robots welding key points; and the final one, later in this page, shows parts of the media tour and presentations.

Ben Case wrote: "The security people of the facility were nice and accommodating. Once inside, I was immediately provided with the media pass and information about the day and what I could do. The employees were all dressed well and knew the answer to any question I had."

Ben continued, "During the tour, the workers were very nice and many even waved with smiles on their faces. If you asked they didn't mind their picture being taken. The factory was very impressive, it was cool to see the technology used to assemble the car and the workers' part too."

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"Everything was very clean and organized, the people knew what they were doing, and didn't miss a beat. The new Jeep Grand Cherokee itself was very cool. I liked the how they kept the front of the car fairly much the same and upgraded the back part. The interior of the middle-level model I found to be incredible. The leather was very nice as compared to the leather they used to have. The Laredo, the bottom-level model, was very clean and simple."

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"The general changes I saw were the controls were simplified and put in plain sight, the second row seat was elevated, some changes in positioning of other seats and controls. Overall the changes they made weren't extreme, but simple and necessary. I really like the new model and really do hope it will do well."

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"The presentation went very well, Governor Granholm, Senator Stabenow, Mayor Bing, Sergio Marchionne, Mike Manley (Jeep), General Holiefield (UAW), the former CEO of the plant, and Representative Kilpatrick. They all essentially said the same thing, which is they are proud of Chrysler, hoping new jobs will arise, the economy is bouncing back, and things of that nature."

The media tour, in motion:

Pentastar V6 engines were stored on re-usable pallets, enough for many Jeeps.

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