Chrysler Group today (Thursday) dedicated a new 500,000 square-foot expansion of its Kenosha engine plant with the launch of the 3.5-litre V6 engine that will power the new Pacifica, which begins production in early 2003.

The production launch marks the completion of the plant’s $US624 million modernisation and expansion programme that began in 1999.

Chrysler Group plants traditionally use outside vendors for installation of new machinery to create production areas. At Kenosha Engine, a unique pilot team was created in an effort to eliminate problems up-front and increase efficiencies.

Approximately 30 people from Kenosha’s hourly workforce collaborated with corporate engineers, advanced manufacturing teams and suppliers to provide recommendations on the equipment and implementation procedures.

Some 100 employees were involved in the equipment floor installation, testing of machinery and training initiatives associated with the new engine.

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At full production, Kenosha Engine will employ more than 1,700 workers and can produce 780,000 engines annually on a two-shift operation.

The 1.8 million square-foot facility currently employs 1,675 workers, who produce more than 2,000 units per day.

Since 1997, Chrysler Group has invested $1.2 billion in the Kenosha facility, including today’s announcement.

The current Kenosha engine production site opened in 1917 and has housed Nash Motors, Nash-Kelvinator, American Motors, Chrysler Corporation and Chrysler Group.

The facility has produced everything from Nash Ramblers, Chrysler Fifth Avenue and Dodge Diplomats to 2.5-, 2.7-and 4.0-litre engines for more than two decades of Jeep and Chrysler models.