Chrysler Group has formally opened its Indiana Transmission Plant II (ITP II), located in Kokomo, Indiana, and begun production of the new rear-wheel drive, five-speed automatic transmission, which will be used in the 2005 Chrysler 300 Series and Dodge Magnum.

"Indiana Transmission Plant II represents a $455 million investment in the State of Indiana," said Chrysler manufacturing chief Tom LaSorda. "We've dedicated over 38,000 training hours to prepare this workforce to build a world-class transmission that meets customers' highest expectations for quality, reliability and performance."

The company's strategy for ITP II involved "smart manufacturing" -- a combination of best practices, both within and outside the company, and a collaborative partnership with the United Auto Workers (UAW).

Chrysler benchmarked facilities in Asia, South America, Europe and North America to add flexibility into the plant's daily operations. As a result, the design of the transmission as well as the manufacturing processes enables multiple models of transmissions to be built for different vehicles and this flexibility allows the plant to respond more quickly to market demands and new product launches, without production losses.

According to LaSorda, the entire project was based on efficiency and flexibility. "Midstream, the scope changed from a plant expansion to the construction of an independent facility. To support the project, we added additional production capacity, which required new tooling and process modifications. Despite these changes, we were able to achieve results ahead of schedule and under budget, without additional resources."

The state of Indiana has announced that a grant of approximately $2 million will be used to enhance the training of the employees at ITP II, as well as the Chrysler Group's Indiana Transmission Plant I, Kokomo Transmission Plant and Kokomo Casting Plant.

Indiana Transmission Plant II will manufacture and ship transmissions to a plant in Brampton (Ontario) where the new 300 series and Magnum will begin production in early 2004. Chrysler-badged versions of both are destined for European sale.