DETROIT — (WWJ) Chrysler celebrated a special milestone at its Jefferson North Plant Tuesday — the five millionth vehicle.
“Just a few years ago, this celebration to me seemed like an impossible dream,” said Chrysler Senior Vice President of Manufacturing Scott Gaberding, at a ceremony at the factory, on Detroit’s east side.
Vehicle number 5,000,000 was a silver Jeep Grand Cherokee, which rolled off the assembly line at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday. It was displayed at the 9:30 a.m. ceremony, and will be donated to the USO to transport veterans at facilities in Florida.
The Jefferson North Plant opened in 1991, and began producing the Grand Cherokee in 1992. Today, 4,500 employees work on three crews to build Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos.
“The fact that we’re even standing here today says a lot about all of you, says a lot about Jeep and says a lot about Chrysler,” said Gaberding. “It says you’re committed, and you’re resilient and you’re not afraid to make a statement.”
Also at the ceremony were several workers who have been at Jefferson North since its opening.
Mike Valenchuck started with Chrysler in 1996, and has seen good times and bad.
“I was laid off personally for about 11 months, and I went from plant to plant. It was pretty tough,” he said.
But, with the plant running 24 hours a day, things look very different.
“The future looks bright,” Valenchuck said. “I think we’re gonna make big headway. We’re gonna gain market share.”
The morning ceremony featured members of Chrysler’s management team, and UAW Assistant Director Virdell King.
“I am a born and raised Detroiter, a city that can’t be knocked down,” he said.
Jefferson North is the only large assembly plant fully in the city of Detroit. Chrysler is the city’s largest industrial employer, and even uses the tagline “Imported from Detroit” in its ads.
Gaberding says they remain committed to the city.
“We don’t make excuses or apologize to anyone about being from Detroit. We’re proud to be here, and proud of our work force,” he said.
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