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Chrysler Boosts Belvidere Plant Production

Automaker said it will return the second shift at its Belvidere, Ill., assembly plant, bringing 850 workers back, to build another 10,000 of compact Dodge Caliber.

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Chrysler Group LLC said Wednesday it will boost production of the Dodge Caliber at a plant in Illinois in response to higher demand for the compact car, one of the most fuel-efficient in its lineup.

The automaker said it will return the second shift at its Belvidere, Ill., assembly plant starting Oct. 5 to build another 10,000 Calibers through the end of the year. The move puts another 850 employees back to work at the plant, Chrysler said.

The decision comes on top of Chrysler's announcement Tuesday that it will add more than 50,000 units to production across its lineup through the end of the year.

"We are taking this action in response to increasing demand for our most fuel-efficient products," said Michael J. Accavitti, president and CEO of the Dodge brand, in a statement.

The Caliber was a popular seller under the government's Cash for Clunkers program, which gave consumers rebates for trading in old, inefficient vehicles for those with higher gas mileage. The Caliber has a combined city/highway gas mileage of 26 mpg, according to the EPA.

Sales of the Caliber were flat at about 4,000 units in August, while companywide sales fell 15 percent during the same period.

The Belvidere plant also makes the Jeep Patriot and Compass, but Chrysler said production of those vehicles is unaffected.

Separately, Chrysler confirmed that it is discontinuing the Dodge Sprinter commercial van and turning over sales, marketing and distribution of the vehicle to Mercedes-Benz USA.

Chrysler spokesman Dave Elshoff said the decision was a mutual one between Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz. Chrysler is looking into another product to fill the commercial vehicle gap, he said. Possibilities include the Fiat Ducato and the Iveco Daily, both made by Chrysler's new owner Fiat Group SpA, he said.

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