By on April 19, 2019

FCA Windsor minivan assembly Dodge Grand Caravan 2011 - Image: FCA

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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13 Comments on “Union Says Fiat Chrysler Ready to Pony Up for a New Product at Windsor Assembly...”

  • avatar

    I know what I’m hoping for but I’m not willing to bet on it. In fact, I’d bet against it despite how much I want to see it. I still believe a Toro-like pickup would be the far more intelligent choice.

  • avatar

    FCA developing new product? Puh-lease. April Fools’ Day was 18 days ago. The reality is, FCA doesn’t *do* new product. (Unless it’s a Jeep, of course, but there’s hardly any niche left for Jeep to explore by now.)

  • avatar

    “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.”

    I wonder if he meant to say that they want to maximize the return on their investment in Windsor? One can never tell how little socialists understand.

    • 0 avatar

      “I wonder if he meant to say that they want to maximize the return on their investment in Windsor?”

      no, they want to increase utilization of the plant, which lowers costs. investing more into the plant and new products to build there will achieve that.

      “One can never tell how little socialists understand.”

      Shouldn’t throw stones from inside your glass house, Toddy-boy.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks for making my point. I left the possibility open that he could have meant what he said, it is just completely ridiculous in the current auto industry climate.

  • avatar

    I “think” the new product is a van based CUV for Chrysler. Most likely something to take over from the ancient Dodge Journey. But as someone else said, sounds hard to believe seeing as its not a Jeep or Ram. Its pretty obvious they have all brands other than Ram, Jeep and Alfa on ice for the next owners to deal with.

  • avatar

    i used to visit this plant floor – weekly – for 4 years.
    real good workers. smart motivated cooperative.
    i wish them the best.

  • avatar

    Time for Steve to float another of his alternate theories: $355M is not “new product” money. $355M is “moving an existing product from somewhere else” money.

    FCA has committed $1.5B to Warren Truck to build the Waggy. That is new product money.

    FCA has committed $900M to update JNAP for the next gen Grand Cherokee. That is new product money.

    FCA spent $350M to move the existing Cherokee tooling from Toledo to Belvidere. That is the sort of money they have budgeted for Windsor.

    My suspicion is they are planning to move the Journey from Toluca to Windsor, to free up capacity at Toluca for more Compasses and Compass derivatives, because Mexico has a better cost structure and better trade relationships to enable Compass exports to more markets where the Journey is too large and obsolete to be competitive.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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 =:(

    • 0 avatar

      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.

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