Chrysler announced Thursday it was investing $374 million and adding 1,250 jobs in Kokomo and Tipton to increase its production of fuel-efficient transmissions.
Once production begins on the new nine-speed transmissions, this area will house the largest transmission installation in the world, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told Chrysler employees, area politicians and members of the media Thursday morning.
“The decision to make these investments can be traced all the way back to those first weeks after Chrysler began operations as a new entity in June 2009, at a time when we faced widespread skepticism about our viability,” Marchionne said. “One of the key decisions we had to make was whether to simply buy a line of technologically advanced powertrains from a supplier or to build them ourselves ... It was clear that there was a burning desire within our own house to take as much control as possible over our own destiny.”
The path to Thursday’s announcement was not an easy one, though.
United Auto Workers Regional Director Ken Lortz said he clearly remembers April 30, 2009 — the day Chrysler filed for bankruptcy. The company’s future was uncertain.
Lortz thanked President Barack Obama for the faith he showed in the automotive industry by issuing a loan to Chrysler.
Chrysler employees and politicians alike erupted in applause. Gov. Mike Pence stood out as the only politician on the dais at the Kokomo Transmission Plant who did not clap.
He later explained his position on the government bailout.
“My position never was to oppose doing anything,” he said. “I was interested in giving companies a hand-up and not a handout. Chrysler went through a bankruptcy. What we were recommending were other ways to do it.”
Chrysler may not have survived without that bailout, though, said David Cole, chairman emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.