Chrysler sales increase but Brampton won’t see extra shifts

Another solid month of car sales at Chrysler and its Canadian division has the autoworkers union hopeful the company may eventually expand its Brampton car plant.

“Obviously they’re going to need a third shift,” Leon Rideout, president of CAW Local 1285, said Tuesday. “I think we”re at 34 months in Canada in [sales] increases? It’s huge.”

The plant on Williams Parkway in Brampton currently employs about 2,800 people making 300s, Chargers and Challengers and other models. The Canadian Auto Workers union had wanted a new shift added to the plant — Brampton’s biggest industrial employer — but the company made no new investment commitment in its new four-year contract workers ratified last weekend.

In Canada, Chrysler reported Tuesday its best September sales since 2000 — 19,555 vehicles, up 1.6 per cent from the same month last year. Truck sales were down 3.9 per cent year over year.

Overall, Canadian sales by all automaker in September climbed to 143,143 vehicles from 134,544 in the same month a year ago, according to figures from DesRosiers Auto Consultants.

Car sales rose 15 per cent, while truck sales were flat.

In the United States, Chrysler Corp. vehicle sales jumped by nearly 11 per cent to 142,041 vehicles from 127,336 a year ago. Truck sales rose 6.2 per cent while car sales jumped 27 per cent.

In July, Chrysler swung to a second-quarter profit on rising sales and higher prices in its key North American market. The carmaker is now majority owned by Italy’s Fiat spa and is run by Fiat CEO Sergio Marchioni.

Rideout said the sales growth should continue. “As long as they got good product the customer wants, under the Fiat leadership with Sergio Marchioni, we’re in good shape,” he said.

However, the union leader said that until the cars manufactured at the Brampton plant show consistent, news-making sales growth, it’s going to be hard to push the company for a third shift.

“The problem is we got to see the records, the increases for the 300, Charger and Challenger,” he said. “The sales are increasing but it’s just not enough of what we build to warrant a new shift.”

Chrysler Canada, based in Windsor, Ont., attributed its September sales growth on its new models.”Fuel efficient vehicles like the Dodge Dart and Fiat 500 helped grow our passenger car sales . . . in September,” said Dave Buckingham, chief operating officer of the Canadian automaker.

“In addition, record sales of the Chrysler 200 have propelled Chrysler to be the number one seller of mid-size cars in Canada,” he said.

These latest sales results follow the most recent round of contract talks between the big three U.S. automakers and the Canadian Auto Workers union that led to Chrysler maintain five shifts – two in Brampton – of assembly operations in Canada until 2016.

The four-year deal ratified late Sunday evening between the CAW and Chrysler includes wage and pension concessions that would help all Big Three automakers compete in an increasingly cut-throat North American car industry.

The agreement also includes bonuses following ratification and cost of living lump sum payments in three years. While pension benefits will remain the same for current workers, new hires will also start at a lower rate and grow to the full maximum pay after 10 years of service, rather than six.

Chrysler – smaller and weaker financially compared to Ford and GM – had sought major labour cost savings from the union but eventually agreed to the “pattern bargaining” wage and benefits deal the union had reached with Ford and General Motors.

Chrysler has operated in Canada since 1925 and employs about 8,000 people in total.

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