A special report on the resurgence of the Detroit auto industry using the Chrysler Jeep plant at Jefferson North as a focal point. The report centers on the characters behind the plant and the new technology it is using for manufacturing cars, while also looking at the economic desperation of the neighborhood in which the Jeep plant sits.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data:ISBN 978-1-118-93657-3 (ePDF) ISBN 978-1-118-93656-6 (ePub) ISBN 978-1-119-04673-8 (e-eMobi) ISBN 978-1-119-04674-5 (e-ePub)
Introduction: How U.S. Workers Rebuilt an Industry
Chapter 1: Buckle Up
Chapter 2: Off-Road
Chapter 3: Recalculating
Chapter 4: Rearview
Chapter 5: Done Dealership
Chapter 6: Idling
Chapter 7: Recall
Chapter 8: Trim
Chapter 9: High Gear
Chapter 10: Differential
Chapter 11: Ignition
End User License Agreement
Detroit Three gains outpace industry.
The standout car fueling Ford’s comeback.
Inside the Jefferson North assembly plant.
Robert Lutz, former president of Chrysler, in 1998.
Chrysler Corporation Chairman Lee Iacocca, right, hands a “personal note” to Treasury Secretary Donald Regan, Wednesday, July 13, 1983, in Washington, after announcing that his company would pay off the last installment of $1.2 billion in federally guaranteed loans seven years early.
U.S. market share by company.
Ralph Gilles, Chrysler’s chief designer.
Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat-Chrysler
Tom LaSorda, vice chairman and president of Chrysler LLC, right, and Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli, left, at Chrysler’s headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, in September 2008.
Growth in truck sales a boon for Detroit.
Former Michigan Governor Jim Blanchard at a press conference on May 31, 2008, in Washington, DC.
Senator William Proxmire (D-Wis), left, shakes hands with Lee A. Iacocca, chairman and CEO of Chrysler Corp., at the start of a Senate finance committee hearing in Washington, Thursday, November 15, 1979.
Jeep Grand Cherokee sales.
New Chrysler vehicles are driven off for distribution to dealerships.
A banner inside Chrysler’s Jefferson North Jeep Plant.
U.S. auto returns to profitability.
Chrysler-Jeep assembly line at the Jefferson North plant.
Chrysler North Jefferson facility in Detroit.
Assembly line in Chrysler North Jefferson facility.
Boarded-up, abandoned homes line the streets near the Jefferson North facility in Detroit.
Fewer people, empty homes.
Percentage of residents with manufacturing jobs.
Percentage of homes that are vacant.
Jason Ryska, plant manager at Jefferson North
Detroit Three shrink gap in U.S. sedan market.
Tyyonna Clark, factory worker at Jefferson North
Tyyonna Clark’s mother, Torry Tucker, also works at the Jefferson North plant.
How Chrysler saved the last auto plant
Skeletons of Jeep Grand Cherokees awaiting painting and assembly at Chrysler’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant.
A worker on the assembly line in the body shop at Chrysler’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant.
President Barack Obama greets auto workers during his visit to the Jefferson North Chrysler plant in Detroit, Friday, July 30, 2010, where the Jeep Grand Cherokee is assembled.
Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of Chrysler LLC, speaks to the media following an event to celebrate the production launch of the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee at Jefferson North Assembly Plant on Friday, May 21, 2010.
Top-selling vehicles in the United States in 2013.
A shrinking city.
Table of Contents
Photograph by Christopher Morris/VII for Bloomberg.com.
In June 2009, the last auto plant in Detroit was idle, mausoleum-quiet, and a symbol of failure. Weeds had grown three feet tall around Chrysler’s sprawling Jeep factory at the desolate crossroads of Jefferson and Conner as the company went dark during bankruptcy. Among the bills the near-dead automaker couldn’t afford to pay: lawn service.
Yet on one Monday morning came the drone of lawnmowers and the buzz of weed-whackers—sounds of rebirth. Chrysler was emerging from Chapter 11 and something had to be done about the eyesore the plant had become. So, before reopening this important factory, a small band of bosses and workers loaded their own mowers into their cars and trucks, drove them to the plant, and began to clear a path for returning employees. “You know we’re bankrupt,” the plant manager, Richard Owusu, exhorted the group in his charming Ghana accent, “but let’s not look like we’re bankrupt.”
Seventeen years earlier, when Chrysler opened its Jefferson North plant, prosperity was all anyone could see. The factory had been designed to produce a single model: the new Jeep Grand Cherokee. Chrysler Corp., which a few years earlier had acquired the Jeep line in its buyout of American Motors Corp., scrapped AMC’s plan to produce a rough-and-ready Jeep in the tradition of the World War II runabout. Instead, it designed a refined four-wheel-drive model with an opulent interior and a powerful V-8 engine. Chairman Lee Iacocca dubbed it the Grand Cherokee, following the nomenclature he’d used to name the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan. And he indelicately boasted of the “ghetto factory” Chrysler built to manufacture it.
Photograph by Christopher Morris/VII for Bloomberg.com.
Privately, Iacocca fretted that Jeep dealers couldn’t sell all 180,000 Grand Cherokees the factory could produce, so he ordered up a Dodge version to hedge his bets. The Dodge model never saw the light of day. “We kept stalling it and stalling it and stalling it, and he’d get madder and madder and madder,” recalled Bob Lutz, president of Chrysler in those days. “And then the Grand Cherokee launched and almost immediately the plant was sold out.”
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