Former Chrysler group makes huge investment in region

ASSEMBLED AT LAST: Sergio Marchionne hugs former UAW Local 685 President Rich Boruff after Boruff thanks Marchionne and the rest of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles leadership for keeping jobs in the area. Marchionne helped dedicate FCA's Tipton plant on May 13, 2014. Tim Bath | Kokomo Tribune

Nine-speed transmissions were rolling out of the Tipton Transmission Plant, and not a moment too soon for Sergio Marchionne’s five-year expansion plan when he visited the facility in May 2014.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles employees stopped work briefly while Marchionne spoke that day, but with a goal of an annual production rate of 400,000 transmissions by year’s end, the hundreds of workers at the $230 million plant were in the midst of an ambitious launch.

The plant was an integral part of the five-year plan, unveiled the previous week. And Marchionne told workers the Kokomo — and now Tipton — transmission plants “earned the right to build the 9-speed.”

The result was a $1.6 billion investment in the Kokomo-Tipton area, and some 2,600 jobs.

Marchionne had plenty of counsel, particularly from the company’s Tipton-bred chief of global powertrain manufacturing, Brian Harlow, to utilize the workforce in this area. And the heartfelt tribute during Marchionne’s Tipton visit from then-UAW Local 685 president Rich Boruff was testament to how much it meant to workers.

Marchionne, 66, was replaced as CEO of Fiat Chrysler after his health had declined following shoulder surgery in June, The Associated Press reported. He died the following month.

Wednesday, the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan, announced its 2019 Class of inductees. Marchionne is among them. He will be added to the list of automotive greats at a ceremony July 18 at the MGM Grand Detroit.

The AP reports Marchionne told analysts in May 2018 his greatest legacy at Fiat Chrysler would be the culture of a company where “mediocrity is never, ever worth the trip.”

But in the Kokomo area, Sergio Marchionne will be remembered as the boss who believed in his workers and spent millions to keep them busy doing what they do best — building transmissions.

Kokomo Tribune editorial board

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