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Last Pacifica drives off from Windsor Assembly plant
Chris Vander Doelen, The Windsor Star
Published: Friday, November 23, 2007

The last Pacifica was driven off the line at Chrysler Canada's Windsor Assembly Plant this week, one of the four vehicle casualties at the company caused by slowing North American vehicle sales.

As many as 1,000 jobs in the Windsor region are expected to have disappeared with the vehicle, including about 150 inside the assembly plant. The rest of the jobs are at parts makers such as suspension supplier Benteler and Innovatech seating.

Chrysler Canada officials were celebrating the American Thanksgiving and were not available to comment. Ken Lewenza, president of CAW Local 444, confirmed Friday that the last Pacifica reached the end of the line Wednesday evening.

Lewenza said it was a "shame" that slow sales forced Chrysler to take the Pacifica out of its portfolio after its recent redesign. "They just gave it a little more power and what they consumers said they wanted."

Pacifica production won't be replaced in the short term by production of extra units of the Chrysler and Dodge minivans because there are still limitations in the plant's body shop which prevent it from building more than 1,245 vans per day.

The plant had been building 1,500 vehicles per day on three shifts when the Pacifica was in production. Lewenza said the plant will return to that level after the New Year.

Other sources said Friday that supplies of seats from Magna have also been a problem preventing a speed-up in minivan production.

Despite that coming speed up, layoff weeks are probably coming for the plant, Lewenza confirmed. Chrysler informed the union this week that its 4,500 working WAP members could see layoffs in the new year due to advancing softness in the new car market in the United States.

"They are anticipating a few down weeks" after the plant's traditional two-week Christmas shut down. "They're talking anything from two to six weeks" of down time which would be staggered through the first half of next year. It could happen."

Sales projections for 2008 "are even lower" than they were a few weeks ago, Lewenza said gloomily. "We haven't worked Saturdays in two months."

The Pacifica will be replaced in Chrysler's lineup by a smaller crossover vehicle called the Dodge Journey. Neither an introduction date or a source plant has been identified yet for that vehicle.

The heavy, wagon-like Pacifica was introduced in early 2004 as a "luxury sports tourer" intended to cash in on aging baby-boomers who were expected to trade in their minivans as their children left home.

It didn't sell well at first, despite a upscale interior that was an improvement for Chrysler vehicles. Pacifica was never a darling of the critics, who complained it was underpowered for its size and looked too much like the minivans whose platform it shared.

The latest version wasn't selling strongly enough, despite being refreshed inside and out. It was also given more power in 2007 -- a 4.0-litre engine and a six-speed transmission.

The Windsor Star first published reports of the Pacifica's demise on Aug. 14, but the cancellation wasn't made official until Nov. 1, after a meeting of the company's new board of board directors.

© The Windsor Star 2007
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