New Detroit factory makes Stellantis parts, as automaker invests in Ontario

The new auto plant, which stands in the former location of Kettering High School on Detroit’s east side, is operated by Dakkota Integrated Systems.

City and auto industry officials held an opening ceremony at a factory built on the former site of Kettering High School on Detroit’s east side this week. The plant will work in concert with Stellantis, making instrumental panels for Jeep vehicles assembled at the automaker’s Mack Avenue and Jefferson Avenue sites.

That comes as Stellantis announces it’s investing the equivalent of more than $2.5 billion in U.S. currency to expand its operations in Ontario. Officials say the commitment should ease concerns over the long-term futures of its Windsor and Brampton assembly plants.

“When you’re inclusive it’s transformational and it rises all boats.” — Andra Rush, Rush Group of Companies

Related: Detroiters Call for Stellantis to Clean Up the Air Around Jeep Plant on City’s East Side

A look at the floor of the new Kettering plant. Photo credit: Alex McLenon/WDET

Kettering plant

Production at the Kettering plant began last year, however the facility’s ceremonial opening was delayed until now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to officials.

The factory is operated by Dakkota Integrated Systems. The company has emphasized diversity in its hiring process for the site, with 90% of the Kettering plant’s 500 employees identifying as members of a minority group.

Andra Rush is founder, chair and CEO of Dakkota’s parent — and is herself a Native American. She says employing local residents was a goal for the site.

“When you give Detroiters a chance and people in an underserved community,” says Rush, “we don’t want a hand-out, we want a hand-up — but when you’re inclusive it’s transformational and it rises all boats.”

The company made use of the City of Detroit’s “Detroit at Work” program, which sees the city screen applicants and recommend them to employers, according to Mayor Mike Duggan.

Example of the instrument panels built at the Kettering plant. Photo credit: Alex McLenon/WDET

“Detroiters would come in,” says Duggan, “and we would say ‘these are hard jobs, you’re going to be on your feet all day, you’re going to have to pass a math and reasoning test, you aren’t going to get your first choice of shifts.’ And we sent people who were ready to go.”

The process was also used to staff Stellantis’ Mack and Jefferson Avenue locations. Stellantis Chief Operating Officer Mark Stewart says the automaker is now employing about 5,500 city residents across its Detroit plants.

Officials says the Kettering plant will add 75 more workers in the coming months.

Ontario investment

The more than $2.5 million USD investment Stellantis is making in Ontario is intended to grow the automaker’s electric vehicle capabilities. It had previously promised to expand its EV operations in the province during collective bargaining with Unifor in 2020.

Officials say the money will allow Stellantis to build two new development centers, retool its Windsor assembly plant and modernize its Brampton factory. While new vehicle commitments have not yet been detailed, Stellantis’ Stewart says the Ontario plants will play an important role in producing electric vehicles.

“So that we have multi-energy vehicles,” says Stewart, “we have full-on battery electric vehicles and we can be sustainable for the future with our Stellantis families in the market.”

“Investing in this multibillion dollar project is because it will deliver.” — Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

After seeing shifts cut last year due to supply chain issues, Stewart says Stellantis’ Windsor assembly plant will continue operating two shifts for the rest of 2022. He says the Windsor and Brampton plants will return to three shifts in the coming years.

The Canadian and Ontario governments are respectively committing almost $400,000 USD to the project. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the investment will help solidify Ontario’s automotive future.

“Investing in this multi-billion dollar project is because it will deliver,” says Trudeau. “It will deliver for workers, it will deliver for communities, [and] it will deliver for our economy.”

Related: Investment Places Stellantis in EV Competition with Ford and General Motors

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  • Alex McLenon
    Alex McLenon is a Reporter with 101.9 WDET. McLenon is a graduate of Wayne State University, where he studied Media Arts & Production and Broadcast Journalism.