Soldier Field was overrun by red on Wednesday, with nearly 300 Dodge Darts from Chrysler's Belvidere Assembly Plant on display before they headed in exodus to dealerships across the Midwest.
The "drive away" event -- part meet-and-greet and part photo opportunity -- gave Dodge CEO Reid Bigland a chance to show off the new 2013 model and gave Gov. Pat Quinn a chance to tout the apparent success of investment in the plant near Rockford.
"The auto industry is alive and well in Illinois," said Quinn. "Chrysler has gone from 200 jobs to more than 4,000 jobs this summer, and we want that growth to continue.”
Chrysler two years ago invested about $700 million to retool the plant and upgrade production in order to build the new Dart. The facility expand to 4.8 million square feet and includes a 330,000-square-foot-stamping plant.
One dealer said the company plans to expand its workforce at the plant from the current 1,800 employees to more than 4,500 by the end of next month.
Since January 2010 Illinois has added 40,700 manufacturing jobs and as also added 136,300 private sector jobs.
The Dart is the first compact sedan for Chrysler dealers since the company eliminated the Dodge Neon in 2005. The new small car has created lots of excitement among automotive media, being named the named the "Most Significant Vehicle" of the North American International Auto Show by AutoWeek, one of Vanity Fair Magazine’s Seven Hottest New Cars at the 2012 NAIAS and the "Coolest New Car Under $18,000" by Kelley Blue Book.
The governor says his favorite words are "made in America" and "made in Illinois."
The Belvidere plant also produces the Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot.