February shutdown planned for Chrysler minivan plant

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

A $2 billion investment to develop and produce the next-generation minivan for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will mean a significant shutdown period for its Windsor Assembly Plant.

Chrysler Canada CEO and President Reid Bigland said the plant is expected to be closed for about 100 days starting in mid-February as the automaker retools and overhauls the plant for the all-new minivan.

“(It will) be an all-new platform, unrecognizable from the existing one,” Bigland told reporters following a Wednesday presentation at the Automotive News World Congress at the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit.

Bigland said the company will continue current minivan production when the plant reopens in the spring, followed by the all-new Chrysler minivan.

The next-generation Chrysler minivan replaces the brand’s current Town & Country as well as the Dodge Grand Caravan, which the automaker sold more than 134,000 of in 2014.

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, during a news conference at the 2015 North American International Auto Show on Monday, said the next-generation minivan will likely incorporate the name Town & Country, at least as a trim level. He said the next-generation minivan is anticipated to be unveiled at the 2016 Detroit auto show.

Production of the new minivan, Bigland said, is scheduled to begin by the beginning of the second quarter next year.

Exterior construction at the plant started late last year using a 600-ton crane to start installing 200 pieces of structural steel to create a new conveyor enclosure on the plant’s roof.

Bigland said the plant’s 4,424 hourly workers will continue building minivans “full blast,” working 24 hours a day on three shifts. Besides the minivans, the 4.4 million-square-foot plant produces the Ram Cargo Van and Lancia Grand Voyager, a version of the current minivan the company sells in Europe.

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