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Sep. 30, 2004. 08:02 AM

Brampton to build new Dodge Charger
Rear-wheel sedan planned for 2006

Could create need to add 3rd shift


The Charger is coming to Brampton.

DaimlerChrysler Canada officials confirmed yesterday the auto maker will rejuvenate the legendary Charger and build it at its Brampton assembly plant in the second half of next year.

The decision, one of a series of moves DaimlerChrysler's parent company is considering, could have a big influence on whether the Canadian subsidiary will add a third shift to meet booming demand for its other new models.

"The Charger has great potential," company president Mark Norman said in a brief interview yesterday.

The rear-wheel sedan, which disappeared in the early 1980s, will be built on the same platform as the hot-selling Chrysler 300 and 300 C sedans and Dodge Magnum wagon, all built in Brampton.

Company officials would not project sales volumes for the Charger, which is scheduled to enter dealer showrooms as a 2006 model.

The decision ends months of speculation that Brampton would be the logical plant to manufacture the Charger since it is the company's only North American plant equipped to build rear-wheel drive cars.

Dodge launched the Charger name in 1966 as a high-powered sports car and it quickly became popular among the street-racing set.

An orange 1969 Charger, dubbed the General Lee, was arguably the biggest star of the popular television series The Dukes of Hazard in the late 1970s and 1980s. The exposure generated free publicity for the model and boosted sales.

Chrysler phased out the model in the late 1970s and revived it briefly in the 1980s as a front-wheel coupe.

DaimlerChrysler is currently looking at several possibilities for its network of plants and the Brampton operation is a big piece of the puzzle.

The company is in the process of introducing 25 new products over a three-year period.

The Brampton plant, which employs about 3,000 workers, has been operating two nine-hour shifts five days a week, plus eight hours on most Saturdays and another six hours on some Sundays because of the popularity of the 300 and 300 C sedans.

Furthermore, initial reports show demand for the Magnum is also extremely strong.

A third shift would add another 900 jobs at the plant and create more spin-off work for auto-parts suppliers in the region.

Insiders say it will be difficult to add the Charger to production in Brampton without a third shift, considering the strong demand for the 300 and 300 C vehicles and apparent potential for the Magnum.

DaimlerChrysler is trying to determine whether sales volumes for the 300 and 300 C will continue over the long term, warranting the addition of a third shift in Brampton or retooling elsewhere.

"There are choices in how to best utilize the corporation's capacity," Norman said following a product review for journalists.

Norman said DaimlerChrysler has not set a firm deadline to decide on a third shift at Brampton, but industry insiders believe the auto maker will decide by the end of the first quarter of next year.

The company started negotiating with the Canadian Auto Workers earlier this month, seeking contract improvements to increase competitiveness, staffing numbers and overtime schedules in a potential third shift at Brampton. But the company has also suggested it could assemble the models at some U.S. plants.

At DaimlerChrysler's product presentation yesterday, vice-president of marketing Ron Smith described the 300 models as the best car in the company's history.

"It's head and shoulders above what we've ever done," he gushed.

"It's incredible to drive."

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Found by: LeBaron Dude (Allpar)
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