Lawmaker Says Chrysler Talks 'Difficult'

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Describing talks as difficult, Rep. Gwen Moore said she's not sure if Chrysler can be persuaded to keep a Wisconsin engine plant in Kenosha open for business.

The Democratic congresswoman, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic Sens. Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold met in Washington Thursday with Chrysler's Deputy CEO Jim Press.

The Kenosha facility is scheduled to shut down in October 2010.

Moore said she and her colleagues used the meeting to pitch Chrysler on keeping the engine plant open and suggested Chrysler shift operations to Kenosha that may otherwise go to a plant in Mexico.

Moore said Chrysler officials weren't necessarily enthused, but that she left the meeting certain that the Wisconsin delegation will keep pushing the automaker to reconsider.

"We made our case on behalf of the Kenosha workers, but Chrysler gave us no reason to believe that they're putting any effort into keeping the Kenosha plant open," a joint statement from the lawmakers said.

"We are deeply disappointed and angered that Chrysler has chosen, in effect, to shift jobs to Mexico despite the years of loyal, productive service -- and more recently, the tax dollars -- the workers of Kenosha have given the company to ensure a new Chrysler continues to produce cars."

Moore said the delegation's next step will be contacting President Barack Obama "to talk about all of the paths that we regard as viable for Kenosha."

Chrysler spokesman Max Gates declined comment on the private discussions.

In a move earlier this month, Fiat inserted language into its purchase agreement filed with the federal bankruptcy court in Manhattan that would give it the option of buying the Kenosha engine factory. A revised purchase agreement said the offer for the plant must be made by the end of July.

Fiat management has taken over day-to-day operations of Chrysler after buying the company in a deal that gives ownership stakes in Chrysler Group to United Auto Workers retirees and the U.S. and Canadian governments.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said other issues discussed in the meeting included:

-- The possibility of the Kenosha plant producing engines to supply the Belvidere, Ill., assembly plant or making engines for the CNH Global tractor factory in Racine. CNH Global is largely owned by Fiat.

-- Local and state aid packages on the table for the Kenosha plant.

-- The possibility that Chrysler could obtain low-interest federal loans through the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program.

The Kenosha plant is due to resume production June 29 after being shut down during the bankruptcy reorganization and sale procedures.

More in Operations