By Joseph Lichterman
STERLING HEIGHTS, Michigan (Reuters) - Chrysler Group LLC's redesigned 2015 Chrysler 200 sedan will begin production in early 2014 at the automaker's Sterling Heights plant here, Chrysler said on Tuesday.
Production of the 2014 model will stop in December to allow Chrysler to prepare the plant for production of the revamped 200 and a new midsize sedan that is expected to replace the Dodge Avenger.
Chrysler hopes a ground-up overhaul will help both models be more competitive with the Toyota Camry <7203.T>, the longtime midsize segment leader, and other popular family sedans such as the Honda Accord <7267.T> and Ford Fusion
The redesigned Chrysler 200 will share its basic architecture with the Dodge Dart and the new 2014 Jeep Cherokee, the company said.
The so-called CUSW platform that underpins the Dart and the Cherokee was developed originally by Chrysler's Italian parent Fiat SpA
The Sterling Heights plant has been quiet since July 1 for a five-week shutdown that will allow Chrysler to start to prepare for the new models. It will use the shutdown to link the assembly plant with newly built paint and body shops.
Chrysler showed off the new 425,000-square-foot paint shop on a media tour on Tuesday morning. The paint shop is part of a larger $850-million investment in a handful of Michigan facilities.
The company also spent $165 million to add the 1-million square-foot body shop.
The investments signal Chrysler's commitment to the Sterling Heights facility, which was once slated to be closed.
After emerging from a 2009 bankruptcy, Chrysler said it would close the plant by the end of 2010, but it was spared several times as the automaker decided to produce upgraded models of the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler 200, which replaced the Chrysler Sebring sedan.
The Sterling Heights plant also makes the Lancia Flavia, which is a rebadged version of the Chrysler 200 convertible that is sold in Europe.
More than 2,500 people work at the plant. A second shift of about 900 workers was added in February 2011.
(Reporting By Joseph Lichterman; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)