Union Says Fiat Chrysler Ready to Pony Up for a New Product at Windsor Assembly

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
union says fiat chrysler ready to pony up for a new product at windsor assembly

Hot on the heels of Fiat Chrysler’s announcement of a shift cut at its Windsor, Ontario minivan plant, officials from Canadian autoworkers’ union Unifor say the automaker has $355 million ready to invest in the facility.

Last month, FCA told Unifor it would cut the plant’s third shift by the end of September, the result of falling minivan sales on both sides of the border. Windsor Assembly employs 6,100 workers, some 1,500 of which stand to lose their jobs. Unifor President Jerry Dias claims the investment will see a new product built in Windsor.

News of the $355 million investment, said to roll out within the next 12 months, came from a sit-down between FCA brass and Unifor officials on Wednesday, the Windsor Star reports.

“There’s no question Fiat Chrysler is committed to Windsor,” Dias said following a talk with Fiat Chrysler COO Mark Stewart. “The bottom line is they’re investing for future product. It doesn’t mean it’ll save the third shift, but that’s what we’ll work on now.”

What form will that product take? A flurry of reports earlier this year claim an all-wheel drive Chrysler Pacifica is in the works, with plant preparation alleged to take place over the summer. Slotting an AWD Pacifica into the automaker’s lineup could potentially prop up the minivan’s sagging sales by drawing in customers who might otherwise have bought a crossover or SUV. Toyota recently added an AWD version of its Prius in a bid to lure buyers in wintry climes.

There’s also the issue of the Chrysler Portal, a minivan-type vehicle, perhaps electric, that’s rumored to ride atop the Pacifica platform. However, that vehicle remains hazy, despite reports claiming FCA has approved its production for the 2021 model year.

“They know what they want to do, but they’re finalizing a few things,” Dias told the Star. “They want to maximize their investment in Windsor. The Pacifica platform gives them all kinds of options.”

He added, “I’m feeling a lot more comfortable (about the plant).”

FCA Canada, when contacted, would not discuss future product or the promised investment.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Apr 20, 2019

    Well, if everything at Windsor is based on an AWD Pacifica platform,, FCA can do what they've done with Jeep: put out multiple variations. Imagine a Pacifica-based AWD Charger and Challenger, maybe even a Chrysler limo. What will they do with Brampton Assembly? make Euro-spec Alfas for export to Europe, bypassing the unpleasant EU-US trade foofaraw, while getting better build quality for US-spec Alfas imported under USMCA.

  • DougD DougD on Apr 22, 2019

    Not sure how much further Pacifica based product will take them, since in 2019 the Grand Caravan is still outselling the Pacifica almost two to one. If they're doing some new product, how about a more durable transmission and enjoyable shift programming for the existing Gen5 Grand Caravan? That's 10 years of Caravans requiring some new product, next time the tranny goes in my 2015 it'll be out of warranty and since I'll be paying the bill myself I'd pay more for something that lasts more than 100,000 km =:(

    • Steve203 Steve203 on Apr 22, 2019

      My suspicion is Pacifica sales are running tens of thousands per year below prediction, so they keep the Caravan to keep the plant busy and cover the plant overhead. Now that the Pacifica is a few years old, (and, like the Dart, suffers some of the worst TV ads ever) sales are falling faster than the Caravan's, down 29%ytd, vs down 18% for the Caravan. Adding an AWD option to the Pacifica would add only a tiny number of additional sales. FCA looked at an AWD option when the Pacifica came out and judged the few marginal sales gained not worth the bother. The money allocated by FCA to Windsor, a paltry $355M, isn't enough to tool for a new model, but it sounds about right to move the Journey from Toluca to Windsor, to fill the production slots left empty by falling Caravan, and faster falling Pacifica, sales. If I was advising FCA, I would give serious consideration to dropping both minivans, dropping the idea of making an assembly plant out of Mack Engine, and make Windsor Grand Cherokee plant #2, but Mike Manley seems to have lost my phone number.

  • Lou_BC "Owners of affected Wrangles" Does a missing "r" cancel an extra stud?
  • Slavuta One can put a secret breaker that will disable the starter or spark plug supply. Even disabling headlights or all lights will bring more trouble to thieves than they wish for. With no brake lights, someone will hit from behind, they will leave fingerprints inside. Or if they steal at night, they will have to drive with no lights. Any of these things definitely will bring attention.I remember people removing rotor from under distributor cup.
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  • Johnster Another quibble, this time about the contextualization of the Thunderbird and Cougar, and their relationship to the prestigious Continental Mark. (I know. It's confusing.) The Thunderbird/Mark IV platform introduced for the 1971 model year was apparently derived from the mid-sized Torino/Montego platform (also introduced for the 1971 model year), but should probably be considered different from it.As we all know, the Cougar shared its platform with the Ford Mustang up through the 1973 model year, moving to the mid-sized Torino/Montego platform for the 1974 model year. This platform was also shared with the failed Ford Gran Torino Elite, (introduced in February of 1974, the "Gran Torino" part of the name was dropped for the 1975 and 1976 model years).The Thunderbird/Mark series duo's separation occurred with the 1977 model year when the Thunderbird was downsized to share a platform with the LTD II/Cougar. The 1977 model year saw Mercury drop the "Montego" name and adopt the "Cougar" name for all of their mid-sized cars, including plain 2-doors, 4-doors and and 4-door station wagons. Meanwhile, the Cougar PLC was sold as the "Cougar XR-7." The Cougar wagon was dropped for the 1978 model year (arguably replaced by the new Zephyr wagon) while the (plain) 2-door and 4-door models remained in production for the 1978 and 1979 model years. It was a major prestige blow for the Thunderbird. Underneath, the Thunderbird and Cougar XR-7 for 1977 were warmed-over versions of the failed Ford Elite (1974-1976), while the Mark V was a warmed-over version of the previous Mark IV.
  • Stuart de Baker This is depressing, and I don't own one of these.