Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

May 15, 2014

Transmissions drive new plan

Awakening from a five-week, self-imposed information cocoon, Chrysler/Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne unveiled a five-year plan for Chrysler Group LLC in November 2009.

Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight was among the 400 analysts, guests and journalists who attended Marchionne’s announcement in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Chrysler’s CEO asked the mayor to a get-together following the presentation.

Marchionne himself addressed and signed the invitation to Goodnight. It suggested to us Kokomo’s Chrysler facilities and then-4,400 employees were a part of the company’s five-year plan. We predicted a new transmission line could be in Kokomo’s future.

We were right. Chrysler announced a new transmission line for Kokomo in 2010. The $343 million investment would produce today’s eight-speed transmissions and retain 1,184 Kokomo jobs.

Later that year, President Obama visited town the same day Marchionne announced another transmission line for the area. The price tag on the investment — which later turned out to be a nine-speed line — was $843 million and would preserve 2,250 jobs.

Last year, Marchionne returned to Kokomo to announce 1,250 jobs for the area: 850 jobs at the former Getrag Transmission plant in Tipton and 400 jobs in Kokomo. And Tuesday, the Chrysler CEO was at the Tipton facility, where nine-speed transmissions had begun production just three weeks prior to the visit.

Since the announcement of Marchionne’s first five-year plan for Chrysler, the company has invested $1.6 billion and added 2,600 jobs in the Kokomo area. Its four transmission plants will have the capacity to produce 800,000 units annually. And if all goes well, Chrysler could employ 7,350 in north central Indiana by 2015 — a 60 percent increase in its local workforce in just six years.

UAW Local 685 president Rich Boruff gave a heartfelt and emotional thank-you to Marchionne in Tipton Tuesday, but the boss deflected praise and heaped encouragement upon his employees.

“You are the authors of a major success story,” he told them, “creating a great turnaround and making it possible to create the need for this new plant in Tipton.”

Marchionne announced a new five-year plan for Chrysler just last week. And like the last one, Kokomo and Tipton transmissions will help drive it.

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