Here's Detroit's last auto factory

Even though US carmakers are thriving once again, thanks to some federal bailouts, Motown is down to a single plant.

By Aimee Picchi Jul 19, 2013 2:14PM

A United Auto Worker works on the assembly line at Chrysler's Jefferson North Assembly plant in Detroit on April 26, 2012 (© Carlos Osorio/AP Photo)Half a century ago, Detroit was a thriving city, buoyed by automobile factories that employed tens of thousands. 


Today, the Motor City is seeking bankruptcy protection, while the automakers have largely abandoned their former home turf. Just one factory remains entirely within its borders: Chrysler's Jefferson North plant, which happens to make what The New York Times calls one of the country's most profitable cars, the Jeep Grand Cherokee.


The plant isn't a charity act from Chrysler. The factory generates about $2 billion annual profits for the carmaker, and helps lift the fortunes of its parent company, Fiat, The Times noted. Still, Jefferson North also employs 4,600 workers, one of the few shining lights in the troubled city. 


But the factory's health is a reminder of what Detroit has lost: thousands of jobs and lots of taxes. The Jefferson North plant provides about $12 million a year in property taxes to the city. (General Motors (GM) makes the Volt in a plant that straddles Detroit and a neighboring city, turning out about 25,000 cars per year, compared to the 300,000 Jeeps produced annually at Jefferson North.)


Chrysler and General Motors are thriving once again, thanks to their federally backed bailouts after filing for bankruptcy. Ford also dealt with financial struggles, going through a restructuring to cut debt and labor costs, Bloomberg notes.


However, while Detroit has spiraled downward, the U.S. automakers have seen their stock prices surge. Ford (F) shares are up 31% this year through Thursday, while GM's have climbed 28% over the same period. 


Detroit's loss of auto factories started in the 1950s, when the Packard plant closed. It's still standing, a crumbling wreck that's often viewed as a symbol of Detroit's problems. (The Detroit Free Press has an eye-opening interactive feature that compares the plant's heyday to today.)


For Chrysler, the decision to stay in Detroit didn't come without concessions from workers. The automaker hired employees at lower wages, taking advantage of an agreement with the United Automobile Workers union to add new employees at $16 an hour, rather than the $28 older workers earn, The Times noted. 


That has helped boost the plant's profitability, while it employ thousands in a city with a 16% jobless rate. 


The plant's future wasn't certain a few years ago, given Chrysler's bankruptcy. But as Jeffrey Brunson, a union official at Jefferson North told The Times: "It's been amazing how great this has been for the company and the employees and Detroit."


Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi


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92Comments
Jul 19, 2013 4:00PM
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I believe a good measure of the blame for the lack of manufacturing jobs in this country is NAFTA.  Kinda like obamacare, the people didn't want it but it got shoved through anyway.  If we don't recover some of the lost manufacturing jobs from overseas, our nation's goose is cooked, not just Detroit's.
Jul 19, 2013 3:25PM
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First of all, the Japanese government pours money into their automakers.  This is nothing new.  Don't be so critical of the U.S.  I believe the government should stay out of everyone's lives but, our companies cannot go under or there will be nothing left here.  Don't any of you see what is happening here by supporting foreign companies?  What is happening in Detroit and other cities around the United States is going to happen to the whole country if  you don't start supporting your own.  I have said before that most Americans should be as patriotic to America as they are to Japan.  This is your country, people!  Detroit is just a sample of what is coming. 
Jul 19, 2013 3:41PM
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The Unions priced themselves out of jobs and factories in Detroit.   Sorry, when the Big 3 actually had to pay people $60K per year in salary and benefits to punch a few rivets every minute or two it just wasn't realistic.  Did the unions recognize this and concede that they were over compensated?  Heck no, they just kept on asking for more.  Funny thing is the Union bosses are probably still getting paid while the hard working folks they represented took the fall; that's what you get when you sell your sould to the Union and it's leadership!
Jul 19, 2013 3:24PM
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My Dad worked there years ago. I am glad to hear it is still going strong. Kudos to Chrysler.
Jul 19, 2013 3:37PM
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This article is a little misleading to those that don't live in the area, after all there are still many auto plants in the suburbs, just not within the city limits.  It's hard to do business in a city that has so much turmoil surrounding it. 
Jul 19, 2013 3:49PM
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Over tax over regulate then you die. So goes the city so goes the state so goes the country.
Jul 19, 2013 4:16PM
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Auto sales will be short lived this time around. very few can buy a new car or truck now. people are doing good just to buy gas to get to work.
Jul 19, 2013 4:37PM
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EVERY STATE GOVERNED BY A DEMOCRAP IS FAILING, CHECK THE FACTS.
Jul 19, 2013 4:01PM
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Yep, the unions really hurt others, again. Twinkie makers getting $24 p/hr? Now Detroit down the tubes? Go unions! I mean, really...GO, away!!!
Jul 19, 2013 4:50PM
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47% OF ALL ADULTS IN DETROIT ARE ILLITERATE SO THEREFORE ALL THE GOVERNMENT HANDOUTS THAT WERE UNSUSTAINABLE. WITH THAT KIND OF ILLITERACY ANY CITY WILL FAIL ESP., IF YOUR CITY COUNCIL IS ILLITERATE.
Jul 19, 2013 3:51PM
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Unions have now taken down a once very active City. The union leaders (communists) seem to -enjoy killing off factories even though that kills off jobs both from the factory and the community. This is the cancer which killed the USSR.  More workers with more benefits and less education and no incentive to produce. This is why jobs move offshore where the companies have a chance to compete in the world market. The USA market has been killed by taxes and regulations, along with the communists' demands.
Jul 19, 2013 4:05PM
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I grew up in Hazel Park. My father, uncles, friends, neighbors, and myself following military service, all worked for either the auto makers or supporting industries. I went back a few years ago after a long absence, and was saddened by the shape Detroit was in. Was such a great place to grow up.

Jul 19, 2013 4:53PM
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TWO FAILING STATES GOVERNED BY DEMOCRAPS, CALIFORNIA WITH 5 BANKRUPT CITIES, AND ILLINOIS WHICH IS ON A VERY CLOSE VERGE OF FAILING.
Jul 19, 2013 4:36PM
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UNIONS HAVE DESTROYED A GOOD THING AS USUAL.
Jul 19, 2013 4:39PM
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have no fear

the progressives will be here

to implement  a program or three.

bet they are free

as the ones in the last century

and pay no heed to what einstein said about insanity.

Jul 19, 2013 4:36PM
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Listen up folks, Detroit  and the FoMoCo is going to be punished for not selling out to the prozionistscommies in WDC. Think about it. May God continue to bless The Ford Family  keep FOMoCO strong. 
Jul 19, 2013 3:07PM
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what we need to solve this problem is another government program. come on libs, you're the people with all the answers.  how can you let all these poor people suffer so? where is your heart?
Jul 19, 2013 5:06PM
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yes unions priced there jobs over seas  japan has dumped cars here for years.
real yes REAL AMERICANS DRIVE FORD AND GM CARS AND TRUCKS NOT IMPORTS
and look at what you drive who owns the company is it Fiat you Dodge folks. and don't say my
TOYOTA was made here the money goes to japan and they will cook the books . put you right
hand over you heart pledge our flag and say goodbye to your job... oh that's to late see you in the bread line.
Jul 19, 2013 3:38PM
Jul 19, 2013 6:17PM
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Some of you have to be misinformed or stupid. The only reasons most hard working American make a decent wage is because of unions. Large companies had rather pay their CEO,s and other white collar workers extremely high benefits and cut out the middle class. Just the threat of organizing helps wages. Even though republican ran states have pushed through Right to work for less and government has allowed companies to move production overseas so They can even make more money, our country is still by far the best place to live and work. In the last decade more than 50 thousands American production plants have move overseas. and some wonder why there is a job shortage. labor movement is what made America great and if you don't believe that, look at how the economy  is growing in China.
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