Saving jobs and investing new money in plant expansion is a story that runs against the current of the industry's present outlook, but Chrysler today announced it will be doing exactly that. By building a new body shop and upgrading its paint operations at the Jefferson North plant in Detroit, Chrysler will create about 400 new jobs. The upgrade plans will cost the company $1.8 billion.

The primary function of the upgrades and retooling is to prepare the plant, which currently builds the Jeep Grand Cherokee, for a new model which will replace the fuel-thirsty SUV. A new line of Phoenix engines will power the more-efficient replacement vehicle, which will come online by the first part of 2010. Other vehicles in the same vein may also be built at the plant, reports Automotive News. Some of the investment will also go to installing energy efficient lighting and waste product recycling to lower plant operating costs.

The move is a positive step - though a small one - provided it does not put the company in an even more precarious position. It's also evidence that the company's leadership does not think they are in as dangerous a financial situation as many pundits appear to. Whether the executives are correct in their assessment remains to be seen, however.