Chrysler already announced the all-new 2013 Dodge Dart would be built within its factory in Belvedere, Illinois, but the automaker announced a number of investments at the plant — including a new third shift of workers — to accommodate Dodge’s new small car contender.
The Belvedere plant previously built the Jeep Compass, Patriot, and the Dodge Caliber. The Caliber’s long-overdue death late last year brings in some space for the Dart. The line is presently building pre-production examples, but should ramp up to full volume early this year.
Adding the Dart to the Belvedere plant took a bit of work on Chrysler’s part. New tooling, line upgrades, a 638,000-square-foot body shop, and quality-focused metrology center were recently bestowed upon the plant. All told, the upgrades represented a $700 million investment in the Belvedere facility.
The better news – at least for the United Auto Workers – is that the addition of Dart production also means additional workers. Chrysler announced it’s adding a third shift to Belvedere for the first time since 2008. As a result, the automaker expects to hire 1800 new employees, including 500 tied directly to launch production of the Dart. Once hiring is finished, the plant’s workforce should grow from 2700 to 4500 employees.
Referencing both the Dart’s platform and the plant’s World Class Manufacturing process, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne noted Belvedere “is an example of the kind of mosaic we aim to create between [Chrysler and Fiat]. A mosaic in which each piece has a clear identity, and yet is interconnected with the other pieces.”
The Dart is far from the first small Chrysler product built in Belvedere. From 1978-1987, the factory produced the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon. After a spell of building larger sedans, Belvedere was retooled in 1994 for the Dodge and Plymouth Neon. Caliber production began in 2005, and assembly of its platform-mates – the Compass and Patriot – commenced in 2006.