Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne is disappointed with how retooling has been going at the automaker’s Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in Michigan, which is preparing to produce the 2019 Ram 1500 in all its various configurations. FCA had planned to start building some models of the all-new light-duty Ram at Sterling Heights while the plant is prepped for full-scale production, satisfying demand by continuing to offer the old, fourth-generation Ram 1500 alongside it.
The problem, Marchionne says, is that retooling Sterling Heights Assembly for full-scale production is proving more expensive and troublesome than Fiat Chrysler had expected.
The complications have so far introduced $300 million in unanticipated costs, and Ram shipments for the first quarter of 2018 were down 17 percent, Motor Trend reports. Today, Sterling Heights Assembly is “running at 60 percent of cycle today which is not where we need to be,” Marchionne said during a call with investors. “We allowed enough time in 2017 to get that installation up, but it’s proven to be challenging.”
“The important thing to remember is that these are temporary costs,” the CEO added. Fiat Chrysler says its Sterling Heights plant will be able to build about 100k more Ram 1500 units per year when the plant reaches full capacity later this year, vs. the 240k-truck capacity at its old Warren Truck Assembly Plant. The automaker plans to make up for production losses by the end of the year.
When that happens, Warren Truck Assembly itself will be retooled to support production of the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer – two premium, body-on-frame SUVs that will ride on the Ram 1500’s platform.
Despite the production difficulties of the all-new, 2019 Ram 1500, Fiat Chrysler’s CEO says he will not sleep on the production floor to more closely oversee the retooling, Motor Trend reports. That’s something that Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has reportedly taken to doing, keeping a sleeping bag at the end of the Tesla Model 3’s problematic production line.
“I’m not sleeping on the floor,” said the 65-year-old executive. “You have to be Elon’s age to do it. I’m too old for that crap.”