Chrysler, Arizona and Mohave County officials were on hand Friday to dedicate the takeover of the test facility about 25 miles southwest of Kingman. Chrysler Vice President Byron Kearney cut a ceremonial ribbon at the 3,840-acre test site, which has 50 miles of test roads and 109,000 square feet of building space.
Chrysler recently bought the facility for $34.9 million, taking the facility over from Ford Motor Company. Chrysler will also make another $10 million in upgrades, including a new 70-foot-high test grade along with other new test surfaces. The test facility is expected to open in the second quarter of 2008. The facility will eventually be a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day a week facility.
Chrysler will use the Yucca site off Interstate 40 for its hot weather testing grounds. The company also has a testing facility in Chelsea, Mich. Earlier this year, Ford decided to merge two of its proving grounds, the one in Yucca and one in Romeo, Mich., into the Michigan facility.
Vehicles being developed will be driven more than a million miles a year on muddy roads, twisted asphalt and on a high speed, five-mile, three-lane oval track. The site will also include two 4,400-foot straight-aways, checkerboard tile and brushed concrete and a low friction facility to simulate ice and wet weather conditions. Chrysler will test about 2,000 passenger cars, sport utility vehicles and trucks a year.
Jan Lesher of the Arizona Department of Commerce said the plant would provide high-paying jobs as well as job training opportunities in the county.
Mohave County Manager Ron Walker said the facility would pump about $18 million into the local economy.
Jeff Zyburt, director of the proving grounds, said the facility would employ 75 to 100 workers making around $76,000 a year. How many of those jobs will be transferred from a Chrysler proving ground facility in Wittmann, which will close in June 2008, is not known. Jobs will also be created from construction projects from the $10 million in upgrades.
The Arizona Commerce and Economic Development Commission contributed $250,000 in incentives to Chrysler. Mohave County contributed $150,000, Kingman contributed $60,000 and Lake Havasu Partnership for Economic Development contributed $40,000.
The facility was opened in 1955 as a testing site for Ford. Before that, the site was an Army Air Corps training base during World War II.