Chrysler has announced the third new Phoenix engine plant in North America in as many months.

The automaker said it would spend $US450m on its Kenosha (Wisconsin) engine plant for a comprehensive retooling in preparation for the launch of a new family of fuel-efficient V6 engines.

The investment and retooling are part of an extensive powertrain investment that ultimately will commit $3bn to develop and launch the new engine line – known as Phoenix – in addition to a dual-clutch transmission joint venture with Germany’s GETRAG and a new common axle family.

“All are part of Chrysler Group’s commitment to advanced powertrain technologies and the first step to more fuel-efficient vehicles,” the automaker said in a statement.

The re-done Kenosha plant is scheduled to begin production in January 2011 with annual Phoenix production capacity of 400,000 units at eventual full volume.

Chrysler Group has operated in Kenosha for 20 years and the plant itself dates back to American Motors‘ ownership. Chrysler’s current 2.7-litre V6 engine has been produced there since 1997 and the 3.5-litre versions was launched in 1999, as part of a $624m modernisation of the plant, which was built in 1917.

Retooling will begin in June 2010.

Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle said Chrysler Group would receive an “incentive package” from Kenosha County, the city of Kenosha and the state of Wisconsin totalling $16.8m.

The fully operational plant will employ 700 full-time workers.

Over the long term, the Phoenix family of V6 engines will reduce manufacturing complexity by paring the Company’s four current V-6 engine architectures to one.

Kenosha becomes the third Phoenix engine plant announced by Chrysler since last April, joining previously announced plants in Trenton, Michigan and Saltillo, Mexico. The company will also construct a new plant in Marysville, Michigan to build a new line of corporate axles.