Detroit's Jefferson North auto plant 'defies conventional wisdom'

Jul 16, 2013

Chrysler's Jefferson North auto plant is one of the most successful in the world, and one of the last to remain in Detroit. You probably won't envy its zip code though, if you zoom in and take a look at the surrounding neighborhoods, much of the city blocks are empty and overgrown.

The big white complex is Jefferson North
The big white complex is Jefferson North
Credit Google Maps

Yesterday, The New York Times published a story on the Chrysler plant. Bill Vlasic wrote about Jefferson North within the context of Detroit's auto industry as a whole:

For a city on the brink of bankruptcy and an American auto industry that many had written off, Jefferson North's revival has become a symbol that Detroit's seemingly endless downward spiral can be reversed.

"Everything is aligned there," said Kristin Dziczek, an analyst at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. "You have a hot-selling, high-proft vehicle, a flexible labor agreement and a facility that the company has invested in instead of abandoned."

Few could have envisioned the turnaround when Chrysler tumbled into bankruptcy in 2009. 

The plant was aging, sales volumes were plummeting and its future was in question. But a government bailout, along with two-tiered pay structure that cut wages for new employees by $12 an hour, saved the company and delivered it into the hands of Fiat, which now is its major owner. 

Since then, annual production has skyrocketed from fewer than 100,000 vehicles a year to more than 300,000. And a work force that had dwindled to 1,300 people has more than tripled. 

H/T: Mark Brush

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