FCA Overhauls Windsor Plant To Manufacture Next-Generation Chrysler Minivan

Feb 10, 2015 02:00 PM EST | Jordan Ecarma

Fiat Chrysler's American division, recently renamed FCA US, is overhauling its Windsor Assembly Plant in Ontario to produce a next-generation, Chrysler-badged minivan.

The facility, which hasn't been refitted since the late 1980s, will be updated by more than 1,500 workers and 50 contractors, and 80 percent of the Windsor plant's equipment will be new when it reopens in May, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Just the body shop will get 822 new robots, while the assembly part of the plant will be fitted with a "new 'skillet' line that can raise or lower the shell of the car to match the height of workers will replace an overhead conveyor," according to the Free Press.

The Windsor Assembly Plant has a workforce of 4,800 and has been building minivans since the first one came off the assembly line in 1983. Its overhaul, which will take place during a minivan production break from Feb. 16 to May 25, is part of a hefty $2 billion investment by Fiat Chrysler.

Employees at the plant have been putting in overtime to manufacture enough minivans to have an inventory while production is on pause.

"We worked six days a week from the middle of last year until this year in order to bridge the 14-week gap to have enough vehicles in the field," plant manager Michael Brieda told the Free Press.

FCA US hopes to maintain its lead in the minivan segment with just one nameplate. The revamped Windsor plant will manufacture a Chrysler-badged minivan only since Fiat Chrysler plans to discontinue the Dodge Grand Caravan. FCA hasn't yet specified whether the minivan will be called the Town & Country or will get a new model name.

The plant could also produce a midsize sport-utility vehicle built on the Chrysler minivan's platform, a model that FCA US is considering.

In 2014, Fiat Chrysler sold more than 272,000 minivans in the United States, combining sales of its Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan models; that figure compares with Toyota, which sold 124,502 Sienna minivans last year, and Honda's Odyssey sales of 122,738 units.

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