Chrysler to restart 7 assembly plants

Chrysler plans to restart seven assembly plants at the end of June after silencing all of its factories during its six-week stay in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The company on Wednesday confirmed that factories in Sterling Heights and Warren, Mich.; St. Louis; Toledo, Ohio; Brampton and Windsor, Ontario; and Toluca, Mexico, would restart operations June 29. A plant in Detroit that makes the Dodge Viper sports car restarted Monday.

In addition, parts stamping, engine and transmission factories that feed those plants also will restart June 29, Chrysler said in a statement.

The company had shut down all of its manufacturing operations May 4, shortly after filing for bankruptcy protection April 30. Inventories of vehicles made by the eight plants have started to shrink, said spokeswoman Dianna Gutierrez.

The eight assembly plants that are restarting employ about 11,000 workers, according to Chrysler's website.

Restart of the rest of the company's factories will be announced later, the statement said, probably after the normal two-week summer break in which all factories will be closed the weeks of July 13 and 20.

When the factories come back on line, their work will be done under a different manufacturing system, one used in Europe by Fiat called "World Class Manufacturing."

Union officials say training in the new manufacturing methods got underway early in June, with workers learning a more detail-oriented, data-driven process that is similar to but less bureaucratic than Chrysler's system.

Chrysler emerged from Chapter 11 on June 10, the same day most of its assets were transferred to a new company run by Fiat, which now controls the Auburn Hills, Mich.-based automaker.

The day of Chrysler's bankruptcy filing, some of its factories were forced to send workers home due to lack of parts, because parts supply companies stopped shipping for fear that they wouldn't be paid.

Gutierrez said those problems have been solved, and suppliers are supporting the company's efforts even during tough times.

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