Chrysler May Build Hybrid Pickup in Fenton, Mo.

Hybrid-electric diesel pickup planned.

Published: 01-Mar-2003

DaimlerChrysler AG soon could build its new hybrid diesel-and-electric pickup truck at Chrysler's North Assembly Plant in Fenton, a top executive said Wednesday.

However, the plant already is running near capacity, and that could be an obstacle.

Chrysler plans to begin producing the hybrid version of the Dodge Ram 2500 pickup later this year, either in Fenton or at its plant in Saltillo, Mexico, said Frank Klegon, Chrysler Group's vice president-Truck Product Team. A decision will be made in a few months, he said.

A hybrid vehicle uses an electric motor in addition to a diesel or gasoline engine. The electric motor is powered by batteries that charge when the vehicle is braking or idling.

Interest in hybrid vehicles has grown in recent years, as consumers and commercial buyers look to cut fuel costs and curb pollution.

Interest also is high in Dodge Ram pickups. Total U.S. sales for those pickups grew 15 percent in 2002, even as Chrysler's overall vehicle sales fell 3 percent.

Fenton already is hitting its production limits, Klegon said. "We're full. That becomes an issue" in picking a plant for the new hybrid.

At the North Assembly Plant, employees are working overtime on two production shifts, as well as two out of every three Saturdays, to meet demand for the Dodge Ram 2500 and Dodge Ram 1500 pickups built there.

Still, United Auto Workers Local 136 President Tony Candela said he'd like to see the hybrid built in Fenton. "We'll take any product in order to secure work and our future."

Klegon and Candela made their comments during interviews after Motor Trend Magazine presented its 2003 Truck of the Year Award for the Dodge Ram 2500. The ceremony was in the assembly plant.

Chrysler has high expectations for the vehicle, which was redesigned for the 2003 model year.

Such heavy-duty pickups, traditionally bought for commercial purposes, are attracting more consumers, Klegon said.

The redesigned pickup appeals to consumers who want the power, but who also want comforts that typically had been offered only in smaller pickups, he said.

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