DETROIT — FCA US LLC’s new Detroit plant under construction reached a symbolic milestone today when the first of 299 steel columns went up for what will be a brand new paint shop.
The Auburn Hills, Mich.-based automaker is investing $1.6 billion to construct a new assembly plant to expand output of Jeep SUVs. The paint shop, an entirely new structure, is the most complicated part of the project.
FCA also is converting two existing buildings at its Mack Avenue Engine Complex to be part of the new assembly operation. The company provided a media update on the project today. The column installation was the centerpiece of the event.
The new paint shop will be 790,500 square feet (73,440 square meters). “It’s massive,” John Powell, senior manager for paint facilities, said at a briefing prior to a tour of the construction site.
Pentastar engines produced at the Mack site have been moved to the company’s Dundee (Mich.) Engine Plant as part of a separate $119 million investment. FCA says 95 percent of existing engine equipment has made the move to Dundee.
Existing buildings at the Mack site are being converted into the body shop and general assembly buildings for the new factory.
The body shop conversion is the furthest along, with demolition, cleaning, and painting having been completed. LED lights have been installed. The project also includes a new metrology center. The body shop will take up 646,600 square feet (60,071 square meters).
“The building is a lot brighter, a lot cleaner,” Eric Goedtel, senior project manager of the company’s building group, said at the briefing. FCA is “95 percent done with the uplift,” he said.
The general assembly conversion is about 10 percent complete overall, with substantial demolition, cleaning, and lighting replacement yet to be done. The building contains about 1.05 million square feet, or more than 97,800 square meters.
FCA wants the new vehicle-assembly factory up and running by the end of 2020. The first vehicle slated for production is a new, three-row Jeep SUV. A new Jeep Grand Cherokee is scheduled to go into production in the first half of 2021. FCA says the new operation will add 3,850 jobs.