Chrysler Group today launches production of the Jeep Patriot cross/utlility vehicle.

The Patriot, which starts at $14,985, including destination charges, is assembled at Chrysler’s plant in Belvidere, IL.

Belvidere also is home to Patriot’s platform-mates, the Jeep Compass and Dodge Caliber. The vehicles share Chrysler’s new C-car architecture.

The auto maker’s flexible manufacturing system, which enables production of several vehicles on a single platform, is credited with Patriot’s smooth launch, to date.

A software glitch briefly disrupted production earlier this year.

Chrysler pegs the flex-related savings at up to 85%.

“Thanks to Belvidere’s ability to build multiple models off one assembly line, we expect the production of three all-new models to cost significantly less than the initial investment we made in the plant to build one product,” says Frank Ewasyshyn, executive vice president-manufacturing.

Says Plant Manger Kurt Kavajecz: “Our new workplace organization model, in which employees work in small teams, has fostered greater creativity and innovation on the plant floor and made for a very smooth process.”

Patriot is the last of 10 new vehicles Chrysler launched in 2006 – a company record.

emayne@wardsauto.com