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Chrysler set to celebrate Indiana factory's opening

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Chrysler is set to mark the opening of a new transmission plant in central Indiana with a ceremony next month that will include the company's top executive.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne plans to take part in the May 13 grand-opening event at the factory along U.S. 31 about 30 miles north of Indianapolis, the company said.

The company started testing new transmissions assembled at the factory last month, the Kokomo Tribune reported. Chrysler is looking to start shipping transmissions from the plant by mid-May.

Chrysler expects to have up to 850 workers at the factory, with a goal of it producing 400,000 transmissions by year's end.

German auto parts maker Getrag started building the plant in 2007 in a partnership with Chrysler before the automaker pulled out amid the recession. Chrysler announced last year it would spend about $160 million to finish the vacant factory.

Marchionne is expected to speak the same day at Indiana University Kokomo's commencement, during which he'll receive an honorary degree.

Indiana University President Michael McRobbie said Marchionne was being honored with engineering "one of the most dramatic rescue-and-recovery efforts in the history of the American auto industry."

Since Marchionne took over Chrysler in 2009, the company has added about 2,600 jobs in Indiana between the Tipton plant and four factories in nearby Kokomo. The automaker now has about 7,100 hourly employees in the Kokomo area.

"I think Marchionne and Chrysler have put together a plan, they've implemented the plan, and it has been successful," Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said. "The people I talk to who work there, including (union) members, have bought into the business model they've created, and so far, so good."

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