Chrysler Group will begin construction in summer 2006 at its assembly and stamping plants in Sterling Heighs, MI, to make way for its new D-segment line of passenger cars.

The plant will have the flexibility to build both C- and D-segment vehicles, with a maximum of five variants running down the same final assembly and body shop lines. Plans are to invest $506 million in both facilities, adding as many as 500 new jobs, bringing total employment to 5,600 workers.

Chrysler says it will invest $278 million to overhaul the body shop and improve its paint shop and assembly areas to make way for the replacements for the outgoing Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Stratus midsize sedans, as well at the Sebring Convertible.

Since the new D-segment vehicles will come from the same platform as the C-segment cars, Sterling Heights also could build the smaller cars as well, such as the Dodge Caliber that replaces the Dodge Neon. The plant will provide vehicles for the Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands.

Leaders at the United Auto Workers union agreed to new work rules to keep the plant operational. The changes include a more team-oriented approach, and a reduction in job classifications.