Joe Baker: Chrysler gets mammoth military order

Good news was announced recently by DaimlerChrysler. The big auto-maker’s Canadian operation has received an order from the U.S. military for 24,000 minivans and Pacificas, according to the Windsor Star.

That means Chrysler’s Canadian employees can work overtime on Saturdays, holidays and some Sundays until mid-July if they choose.

The Star reported sources within Chrysler said the American military ordered 19,000 minivans and 5,000 Pacificas to use as light-duty vehicles in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Military officials apparently believe replacing the diesel-guzzling, heavy Humvees with lighter conveyances will save on fuel. The new vehicles will be used as light personnel carriers at U.S. bases around the world.

In recent years, the U.S. military has become more and more concerned about Peak Oil and commanders have repeatedly complained the heavy Humvees are very inefficient in non-combat use to carry a few soldiers at a time around a base.

Not all the vehicles will be built in Canada. Ten thousand of the minivans will be built at Chrysler’s St. Louis plant and 9,000 in Windsor. The Pacifica is built only in Windsor, so employees there will get to build 14,000 vehicles.

Word of the huge order spread among Chrysler workers May 13. The Canadian plant began making the first part of the order the following day.

Frank Ewasyshyn, executive vice-president for manufacturing for DaimlerChrysler, had little to say about the giant order. “Sales are great,” he said. “We’re running full tilt.”

The president of the Canadian Auto Workers union, Buzz Hargrove, said he hadn’t heard about the order last week before he traveled to Vienna. “But if Frank [Ewasyshyn] says that, then it must be true, and if it’s true that’s great news,” Hargrove said.

Ewasyshyn would not confirm that the Windsor plant and its suppliers have been told they will be working double time on Mondays and every Saturday until the shutdown in mid-July to fill the consignment.

A source within the Windsor plant said: “They say the U.S. government has put their down payment on the vehicles and we’re building ‘em already. They’re supposed to be going to Iraq as taxis and stuff.”

A worker said: “This is great for us going into negotiations. If you ordered a van right now, you’d have to wait for an ’06 because we’ve got so many orders.”

From the June 8-14, 2005, issue

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