Canadian Chrysler plant 'guaranteed'
Chief executive assures workers van factory will not be shuttered
By Craig Pearson, Postmedia News January 21, 2011 2:12 AM
Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne visited Windsor Tuesday for a homecoming befitting a rock star and de-livered the magical words employees most wanted to hear: the van plant is safe.
"This is a great plant," Marchionne told about 1,200 workers who gathered to hear the boss speak in the middle of the Windsor Assembly Plant. "I came here with one objective only and that is to tell you the future of this plant is without a doubt guaranteed."
The plant erupted into enthusiastic, sustained applause.
Rare tours were granted to journalists in advance of Marchionne's first visit to the Windsor Assembly Plant, which employs more than 4,400 workers and was built in 1928, making it the oldest still operating in the company.
The line was shut down before the head of Fiat SpA and Chrysler Group entered, dressed as usual in a sweater but no tie. A festival atmosphere surrounded his appearance.
Rock music thumped over the sound system and a shiny new van sat next to the dignitary-laden mini-stage, flanked by a few security personnel.
Security didn't seem necessary for this love-in. The applause started when Marchionne strolled in and only intensified when he took a turn at the microphone. He started reading from a prepared speech, citing climbing sales figures and dry production growth, only to stop halfway through.
"I'm going to skip the rest of this," he said with a smirk. "This sounds like advertising."
Instead, the 58-year-old Italian-born businessman went on to talk about growing up in Toronto and spending three years studying at the University of Windsor, where he earned a masters in business administration in 1980.
"I always knew I would come back home to Windsor," the Italian-Canadian dual citizen said to applause. "I remember Windsor probably being the best time of my life, when I was studying here," he added.
"It was excellent news for everybody, for the plant and for Windsor," said door-line worker Dave Swyntak, who lingered after Marchionne's speech in the hopes of talking briefly with the boss. "We're standing around because we're trying to see if he will come by and maybe we can meet him."
Karie Brown, an inspector on the line, agreed that Marchionne's guarantee for the plant was uplifting and that he seemed down-to-earth.
"He wasn't uptight," she said. "He was very straightforward about everything. You could really relate to him."
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