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  • Auto News: Chrysler Launchs the All-new 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country at the St. Louis South Assembly Plant

Auto News: Chrysler Launchs the All-new 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country at the St. Louis South Assembly Plant

September 17, 2007

Sep 17, 2007
Chrysler LLC celebrates the manufacturing launch of the all-new 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan, Dodge Grand Caravan Cargo Van, Chrysler Grand Voyager and Chrysler Town & Country Minivans for global markets at its St. Louis South Assembly Plant in Fenton, Missouri.
Photo 2/2   |   2008 Dodge Caravan Launch
Nearly 24 years after Chrysler launched the first minivan and created a new segment of automotive transportation, Chrysler launches yet another new minivan featuring an industry-first all-new Swivel 'n GoTM seating system and a center console table. Since its introduction in 1983, Chrysler has sold nearly 12 million minivans.
St. Louis South is the third Chrysler assembly plant to implement a fully robotic body shop, giving it the ability to automatically adjust to build multiple models within cycle time. Equipment, facility and process changes began in 2006 as the plant continued to build Chrysler and Dodge minivans. The investment will reduce new-model changeover downtime.
Chrysler recently invested over $500 million in its two St. Louis-area manufacturing facilities. The manufacturing plants, both located in Fenton, Mo., are home to the Dodge Grand Caravan, Dodge Grand Caravan Cargo Van, Chrysler Town & Country and Chrysler Grand Voyager minivans (South) and Dodge Ram Standard and Quad Cab pickup truck (North).
Part of this significant capital investment provided St. Louis South with the capability to manufacture multiple types of vehicles on one line.
Produced in both right and left-hand drive, the all-new 2008 Chrysler Grand Voyager will be exported to over 100 countries. Available with either gas or diesel engines, this addition represents a significant increase in complexity and production levels for the St. Louis Assembly Plant, as the Chrysler minivan models for markets outside North America have been produced in Europe until now.
"These new products confirm Chrysler's commitment to the minivan market and maintains our leadership position in this market segment," said Fred Goedtel, Vice President - Small/Premium /Family Vehicle Assembly. "Our focus on flexible manufacturing and utilizing state-of-the art technology will help us meet customer demands for high quality vehicles."
The ability to build multiple products on the same line enables the company to build and test prototype vehicles much earlier in the launch phase. Because production tooling and processes are employed (rather than a simulated line which is often used for prototypes), the company can train operators and resolve manufacturing issues and make quality improvements much sooner.
Flexible Manufacturing
The key to the flexible manufacturing process is the order in which the body is assembled using a unique under-body pallet system in the body shop. The same flexible pallet system has also been used at the company's Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in Michigan where the Chrysler Sebring Sedan, Chrysler Sebring Convertible and Dodge Avenger are manufactured, as well as the Toledo North Assembly Plant in Ohio, where the Jeep Liberty and Dodge Nitro are produced. This means that the same production system may be used to build sedans, convertibles, minivans, sport-utility vehicles and sports tourers.
This flexible manufacturing system was first used in the launch of the then all-new 2001 Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Caravan series of minivans in the summer of 2000 at the Windsor Assembly Plant in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
The St. Louis South facility underwent a major change-over with extensive upgrades to accommodate the new minivans' production requirements and Smart Manufacturing methods. The enhanced processes and installation of new technology will also benefit future product launches and additional product variants due to the greater levels of flexibility.
"With the implementation of Smart Manufacturing, the United Automotive Workers (UAW) and the management team now have the ability to resolve manufacturing issues more quickly," said Tyree Minner, Plant Manager St. Louis South Assembly Plant. "This will significantly enhance the success of the all-new 2008 minivans. We now all have a stake in the success of our company."
The St. Louis South Assembly Plant was originally built in 1959. Sitting on 273 acres, the 2.64 million square feet facility started production of minivans in 1995 and currently employs 2,800 people. There are a total of 785 robots used in the production of the all-new 2008 minivans.
The minivan market segment remains vibrant with industry-wide sales averaging 1.1 million units a year since 1993. Chrysler continues to dominate the minivan segment with a 34 percent U.S. market share, outselling their nearest competitor by more than a two-to-one margin. The company sells more than 430,000 Chrysler and Dodge minivans worldwide every year and has sold nearly 12 million minivans since introducing the segment in November of 1983.
Chrysler also manufactures the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country at its Windsor Assembly Plant in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. The Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country vehicles are also built in China and Taiwan (respectively) for sale in the local Chinese and Taiwanese markets.
Chrysler's Recovery and Transformation Plan (RTP)
Chrysler is currently implementing a 3-year RTP that seeks to return the company to profitability by 2008 and redesigns Chrysler's business model for the long run.
The RTP has seven work modules, touching every aspect of the company: Product Strategy/Portfolio Management; Fixed Cost Management; Structural Changes/Manufacturing; Material Cost Management; Revenue Management; Quality and Capital Management.
St. Louis Community
Chrysler has a history of working with the St. Louis community. In the past five years, the Chrysler Foundation has contributed more than $1 million to charitable organizations in the greater St. Louis community, including the United Way of Greater St. Louis, Boys Town of Missouri, Make a Wish Foundation and Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.
The Dodge Ram (1500 and 2500) Standard and Quad Cab pickup trucks are built in Fenton at the adjacent St. Louis North Assembly Plant. The 2.29 million-square-foot St. Louis North Plant was constructed in 1966. The plant employs 2,085 people.
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