FCA moves Ram production to Mich., gives $2K bonuses

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will invest $1 billion at its Warren Truck Assembly plant to bring production of its Ram Heavy Duty truck to the U.S. from Mexico. The company said Thursday the move will add 2,500 jobs in Metro Detroit by 2020, when the plant retooling is completed.

The automaker also plans to give its 60,000 hourly and salaried U.S. employees $2,000 bonuses.

“These announcements reflect our ongoing commitment to our U.S. manufacturing footprint and the dedicated employees who have contributed to FCA’s success,” CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement. “It is only proper that our employees share in the savings generated by tax reform and that we openly acknowledge the resulting improvement in the U.S. business environment by investing in our industrial footprint accordingly.”

The company said the move solidifies the U.S. as a manufacturing hub for Ram vehicles. Marchionne and the company said both the new investment and the bonuses were “made possible in part by the passage of U.S. tax reform legislation late last year.”

President Donald Trump soon after the announcement hailed the move on Twitter as “more great news as a result of historical Tax Cuts and Reform.”

“Chrysler is moving a massive plant from Mexico to Michigan, reversing a years long opposite trend,” he tweeted Thursday night. “Thank you Chrysler, a very wise decision. The voters in Michigan are very happy they voted for Trump/Pence. Plenty of more to follow!”

The announcement from the Italian-American automaker comes a day after Japanese automakers Toyota and Mazda announced plans to build a huge, $1.6 billion joint-venture auto plant in Alabama, which garnered attention from Trump.

“Companies are coming back to the U.S. in a very big way,” he tweeted Wednesday evening. During his campaign and shortly after winning the election, the president routinely singled out Ford Motor Co. and other companies in the global auto industry for maintaining or moving production to plants in Mexico.

Before a March 2017 speech in Ypsilanti, Trump told Jim Lentz, chief executive of Toyota North America, “You have to build plants here. I know I gave you a hard time, but you have to build them here.”

The $2,000 bonuses will be paid out in the second quarter of this year, the company said Thursday. It will be made in addition to any profit sharing and performance bonuses. FCA’s Saltillo Truck Assembly Plant, where the Ram Heavy Duty is currently made, will be re-purposed to make commercial vehicles for global distribution, according to a company statement.

Thursday’s announcements were made in advance of the North American International Auto Show. Fiat Chrysler is expected to unveil an all-new Ram 1500 pickup at the Detroit show Monday.

News of the investment follows similar announcements from just over a year ago, when Fiat Chrysler said part of a $1 billion investment in Michigan and Ohio would go to Warren Assembly to produce the all-new Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer. That investment is also expected to be completed by 2020.

Mark Hackel, Macomb County executive, said the Thursday announcement is part of an ongoing narrative. Detroit’s Big Three have invested billions in Michigan and Macomb County in the last few years, and that’s a statement to the strength of the region, he said.

“This is unbelievable,” Hackel said. “This is an amazing statement. ... We are basically Ram county now. (Marchionne) has a big hug coming from me at the auto show next week.”

The company since June 2009 has invested $10 billion in U.S. plants. That includes $1.5 billion to retool the Sterling Heights Assembly to build the next-generation Ram 1500; $1 billion split between Warren Assembly and the Toledo Assembly Complex; $350 million at the Belvidere Assembly Plant to make the Jeep Cherokee; and $700 million at the Toledo Assembly Complex to produce the next-generation Jeep Wrangler.

Those investments will have added 3,700 new jobs in the U.S., according to Fiat Chrysler. They support production in the Jeep and Ram lines, and will also help bring three new Jeep models to plants in Ohio and Michigan.


Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau