Chrysler Launches Sebring Convertible

By: Anthony Fontanelle

The Chrysler Group earlier announced the launch of the 2008 Chrysler Sebring Convertible, which will be built at the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant (SHAP) in Michigan. The new convertible will be manufactured alongside the Chrysler Sebring Sedan and the 2008 Dodge Avenger which were launched earlier this year.

The SHAP employs the Chrysler Group's expanding Flexible Manufacturing Strategy (FMS). FMS allows the automaker to bring its new product lines to market more quickly and the SHAP to manufacture multiple vehicles on a sole assembly line.

"We are seeing a great deal of success at the Sterling Heights facility due to the commitment of our plant employees," said Frank Ewasyshyn, the Executive Vice President for Manufacturing. "Their willingness to support and foster a small-team workplace model has delivered a successful third-vehicle launch."

The SHAP and the Sterling Stamping Plant were broadly retooled in the previous year to manage the complexity of building multiple models on one production line. The Sebring Convertible program is part of the $500 million investment which covered multiple plant upgrades to enhance quality, productivity and worker ergonomics. To overhaul the body shop and improve the paint shop and assembly areas, including new tooling and about 620 new welding and material-handling robots, the automaker invested $278 million at SHAP.

"With our Flexible Manufacturing Strategy, the assembly operation now has the capability to build multiple upper bodies and multiple vehicle families, allowing the flexibility to add new models or "cross-load" models from other plants in order to better meet market dynamics," said Robert Bowers, the Plant Manager at SHAP. "In addition, the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant can weld and assemble more than one product on the same line. These new capabilities will support the Company's pursuit of product leadership by providing flexibility and increase distinction between the Chrysler, Jeep(R) and Dodge brands," said Bowers.

Since the roll-out of Chrysler Group's Flexible Manufacturing Strategy in 2000, it has been the template for Chrysler plant refinement. SHAP and Sterling Stamping along with Belvidere Assembly Plant are the pioneers of this strategy allowing the company to bring the right products to the market at the right time. At present, the SHAP is able to vary the production mix between three product models and pilot or test build a fourth.

The FMS allows the automaker to produce a higher quality product faster like how General Motors integrates the to its product lines. To balance production with demand, the FMS approach allows Chrysler to proficiently build lower-volume product lines that take advantage of market niche, and to swiftly shift production volumes between various models within a single or among multiple plants.

The FMS is being implemented product by product and plant by plant across the Chrysler Group. Their new investment is introducing state-of-the-art technology to the company's plants to produce more than one vehicle on a production line and carry out rolling launches of new models. Also, the automaker's workforce is becoming more flexible with the implementation of team concepts and an increased emphasis on supporting assembly line operators.

In regards with robotics, the core of the new manufacturing process is a body shop comprised of 620 new robots instead of the vehicle-specific heavy tooling that was previously used, for a total of 784 robots in the Body Shop. The Smart Manufacturing feature of the plant will increase the flexibility of the SHAP workforce, while fostering greater creativity and innovation from plant employees.

The 2008 Sebring Convertible builds on the successful formula of the award-winning Chrysler 300. The formula combines elegance, sophistication, safety, reliability, superb fuel-efficiency, and jaw-dropping performances all at an affordable price.

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