Fiat + Chrysler = ?
Chrysler has two other test facilities-a very small loop road near its headquarters in Auburn Hills used for "casual evaluations" and a winter track in Arizona. But the Chelsea facility is so valued that some in Chrysler call it the "country club."
In recent years, many workers at the proving grounds have retired or taken buyouts. But the facility still retains a talented staff, auto journalists say. Among them are 265 workers represented by the United Auto Workers Local 1284, about eighty-five fewer than two years ago. The UAW's Jake Richardson does not expect more buyouts this year since "we're so low now as it is."
Recently, Chrysler has added some temporary workers at the proving grounds and brought in about eight UAW members, mainly technicians, from Huntsville, Alabama. They were guaranteed three years' work in Michigan, but many did not move their families here, according to Bob Pierce at the Chelsea Area Chamber of Commerce, who helped them get settled in town.
The main test oval was torn out and repaved in the summer of 2007-the same year Chrysler planted soybeans on the grounds and sold them to an Adrian processor for biofuels. Chrysler "gathered a lot of great data on alternative fuel use," says spokesman Cappa. The company has erected a test tower on the grounds to measure wind speeds in a joint venture with Washtenaw County that eventually may result in a wind farm on the property or nearby.