DaimlerChrysler AG has won permission from union members to build a more flexible auto assembly plant. Now it is turning to suppliers to make the concept reality.
The automaker wants to build a plant in Windsor, Ontario, within the next few years, but it will be one with an operating plan that is more European than North American. Its plan calls for an extended supplier park on the property with 1,500 supplier-company employees on site, compared with about 1,000 DaimlerChrysler workers, Dieter Zetsche, Chrysler Group president and chief executive officer, said during an Oct. 21 conference call with reporters.
The proposal also would require suppliers to make a major investment along with the automaker at the plant, he said.
``We are depending on a long-term partnership with suppliers, which might even include equity participation,'' Zetsche said.
DaimlerChrysler won concessions for a flexible operating system at the facility from the Canadian Auto Workers in a new contract that was approved this month. However, in order to move ahead fully with the concept, the company also must win unspecified support from the government and commitments from suppliers.
``At the end of the day, we have to have a project that is financially feasible,'' Zetsche said. ``There are a number of unknowns. Obviously, there are three very important parameters. One is the labor agreement. We know about this in a very positive way.
``Then there are the suppliers and government roles. These two are still unknown.''
The Auburn Hills, Mich.-based company is entering an ``advanced stage'' of discussions with potential partners for the Windsor plant, he said.
The DaimlerChrysler Group and its competitors use supplier parks extensively in Europe, but the concept is relatively new in North America, with parks under development for Ford Motor Co. in Chicago and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. in Canton, Miss.
DaimlerChrysler is not making long-term plans to develop the joint operating parks for all of its plants, Zetsche said, but it will seek out ``innovative'' options to help it compete.
``We have to reinvent ourselves all the time to get back on top of the game, and we have to do that with our partners,'' he said.