Chrysler’s Newark, Delaware Assembly Plant

Cover of the Chrysler Newark Assembly Plant brochure. Click to view the entire item in the Hagley Digital Archives.

When people think of America’s great automotive centers of industry, Detroit, Michigan is probably the first US city to come to mind. What many people don’t remember is the nearly half century during which Chrysler Corporation was manufacturing cars right here in Newark, Delaware. The Chrysler Motors Newark Assembly Plant began as a tank plant in 1951 and was converted for auto assembly in 1956. Its first car was completed April 30, 1957.

The collection contains a publication about the Newark Assembly Plant that was released around 1989 for tour groups visiting the plant. It includes a welcome letter from the plant manager, B.M. Woodward. In the letter, he discusses the advancements made at the plant and new policies being implemented for the 1989 model year. These included the Modern Operating Agreement (M.O.A.), which was a new technique that placed emphasis on working in teams as a way to increase worker efficiency.

During its existence, the factory produced many different Chrysler vehicles, but in 1989 when this publication was released, the factory was producing the Dodge Spirit and the Plymouth Acclaim.

By the numbers (as of time the publication was released):

  • Cars produced from 1957-1988: 5,382,997
  • Hourly Production rate: 60.125 cars/hour
  • Daily Production rate: 962 cars based on two shifts
  • Miles of Conveyor: 9 miles

The cover of the document providing plant description for visitors. Click to view the entire document in the Hagley Digital Archives.

Also included with this brochure is a stapled packet of papers describing the different areas shown on the tour. It includes numbered descriptions of each stage of the production process.

The plant was closed in 2008 and since then some work has been undertaken to preserve its legacy. In 2009, the land itself was purchased by the University of Delaware. The university’s communications and political science students produced a documentary called Left Behind in 2009 detailing the plant’s history and the hopes for its future as part of the university.

As of October 2011, plans have been approved to turn the old Chrysler site into a Bloom Energy facility.

Emily Cottle is the Project Archivist/Cataloger for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

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