Autos: Diamond-Star Shines on Illinois

Diamond-Star Shines on Illinois

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The chief cash crop of the area outside the twin cities of Bloomington and Normal, Ill. (combined pop. 83,384), is about to change from corn to cars. Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca and Mitsubishi President Toyoo Tate announced last week that they had picked a 636-acre site just west of the central Illinois cities as the location for Diamond-Star Motors, a new joint venture. So named because Mitsubishi's corporate symbol consists of three diamonds and Chrysler's is a star, Diamond-Star plans to build 180,000 subcompact cars annually, beginning in 1988. Each company is investing about $250 million in the Bloomington-Normal factory, and its output will be split evenly between Chrysler and Mitsubishi dealers. Mitsubishi, though, will handle the day-to- day management of the plant.

Competition for the Diamond-Star plant, which will provide 2,500 jobs, sparked a new war between the states. Illinois edged out Indiana, Ohio and Michigan by offering Diamond-Star $160 million in tax breaks, $40 million for worker-training programs and $43 million for sewers, highway improvements and other projects needed to turn cornfields into a factory complex.