Reckoning to Revival: How American Workers Rebuilt an Industry (Bloomberg)
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A special report on the resurgence of the Detroit auto industry using the Chrysler Jeep plant at Jefferson North as a focal point. The report centers on the characters behind the plant and the new technology it is using for manufacturing cars, while also looking at the economic desperation of the neighborhood in which the Jeep plant sits.
turned gray yet.” Since Ryska arrived in January 2012, he has hired a third crew of workers, increasing employment at the plant to 4,500, from less than 1,400 when Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy. His factory runs 20 hours a day, turning out 1,205 SUVs a day. To keep up with demand, he runs his factory on overtime three Sundays a month. In 2013, the plant produced more than 325,000 vehicles, the most since 1999 and five times more than it built in 2009. With estimated pretax profits averaging
Jeep ushered in the golden era of the sport‐utility vehicle, catering to affluent Baby Boomers looking for a sense of adventure on their commute to the shopping mall and soccer sidelines. By 1995, three years after Jefferson North opened, the plant was building more than 300,000 Grand Cherokees a year and Chrysler was booking record profits. Said Lutz: “You talk about a money machine!” Detroit Three gains outpace industry. Company Led by GM, the Detroit Three accounted for 45.2% of U.S. auto
didn’t know when.” The plunge came when Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008, taking the global economy with it. Detroit was running out of cash and would soon be begging Washington for a bailout. Though GM and Chrysler were in the worst shape, the smell of death was in the air for all three American automakers. “If you let GM and Chrysler go down,” said Lutz, who by 2008 was vice chairman of GM, “Ford would have been next.” Now, the U.S. auto industry has come full circle, from bankruptcy
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new hires at the Detroit Three automakers to be paid $14 an hour, half the $28 an hour veteran workers made. That cut Chrysler’s labor costs by more than a third, from almost $76 an hour in combined wages and benefits in 2007 to $49 in 2011. Assembly line in Chrysler North Jefferson facility. Photograph by Christopher Morris/VII for Bloomberg.com. Recall 31 Workers also accepted a modification to how they’re paid overtime— instead of after eight hours in a day, overtime comes after 40 hours