Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne was at the FCA Windsor Assembly Plant on Friday morning to announce the launch of the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, the company’s sixth-generation minivan, a full hybrid slated to go on sale in September 2016.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was in “late-stage talks with Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving car division for a technology partnership,” and that an autonomous version of the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan was at the centre of those talks.
Marchionne was joined by Unifor President Jerry Dias, along with company and union officials, to celebrate the launch of the Pacifica, to be built in the 4.4 million-square-foot Windsor Assembly Plant.
“Today is the right moment to ask ourselves what’s next, what we want this plant to become two years from now,” said Marchionne. “My vision is clear and it is based on what you have demonstrated so far: your dedication, your passion and your openness to new ideas, in order to put out the highest quality products possible.”
FCA has spent $2.6 billion U.S. to develop the Pacifica, of which $744 million U.S. (over C$1 billion) was invested to upgrade the Windsor facility, including the addition of a state-of-the-art Component, or Metrology, Center and Complete Technical Vehicle Validation (CTVV), for which the facility was shut down for 14 weeks in early 2015.
Since the birth of the minivan 33 years ago in 1983, the Windsor, Ontario plant has built 10 million of a total 14.3 million Chrysler and Dodge minivans sold.
“That [original] vehicle represented an entirely new concept and a historic game changer when it comes to family transportation,” said Marchionne. “You have earned the right to be proud of the leading role you have played in making us the undisputed leader in minivans, a tradition we fully intend to maintain with the new Pacifica.”
More than 1,200 workers have been hired since September 2014 to prepare for launch of the plant, bringing total staff to approximately 6,000 working on three shifts.
Windsor’s unemployment rate last month fell to 6.4%, from 7.0% in March, at least some of which can be attributed to hiring for the Windsor Assembly Plant.
The WAP was the first FCA North American facility to receive the silver designation in World Class Manufacturing (WCM) in March 2014, a certification that acknowledges standards focusing on the elimination of waste, increase of productivity, along with improving quality and safety.
“The first target is for Windsor to achieve Gold [WCM] status in 2017 and to be recognized as one of the best manufacturing facilities in the world. Secondly, our vision is for this facility’s quality ranking to score in the top 25 percent according to J.D. Power,” said Marchionne. “If you are able to achieve these goals – and I trust you are – you will simply prove to the world what you are made of and you will go a long way toward controlling your destiny and the destiny of this plant.”
FCA is the world’s seventh largest automaker based on total annual vehicle sales, and designs, engineers, manufactures and sells vehicles under the Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram and FIAT brands, as well as the SRT performance vehicle designation.