Dana investing $70M for new Toledo axle plant

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News
Dana Holdings Corp. plans to invest about $70 million to build a new axle manufacturing facility in Toledo.

Dana Holdings Corp. plans to invest about $70 million to build a new axle manufacturing facility at the birthplace of Jeep in Toledo.

The Maumee, Ohio-based auto supplier on Monday said the investment includes roughly tripling the size of a recently constructed facility to nearly 300,000 square feet on the former site of Willys-Overland Motors, which developed the original military Jeep.

“The fact that the plant will be on the site of the original Willys-Overland Jeep factory is really exciting for us,” Bob Pyle, president of Dana light vehicle driveline technologies, said in a phone interview Monday.

Pyle said Dana has supplied driveline products for the Jeep Wrangler dating to the beginning of the SUV brand’s existence. Dana currently ships axles for the Wrangler from a plant in Kentucky to Toledo.

He would not confirm that the company is making the investment to support increased production of the next-generation Jeep Wrangler; however the company said the plant will continue its “partnership with the Jeep brand” as well as axle assembly for “another global automaker.”

The new plant will be located less than three miles from Toledo Assembly Complex, which produces the Wrangler and Jeep Cherokee for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. The facility is expected to lose the Cherokee by 2018 to increase Wrangler production, including a pickup variant.

“We’ve had this long-standing history with what is now Fiat Chrysler and Jeep going all the way back 75 years,” Pyle said. “Not only could we supply Fiat Chrysler from this facility but other automakers in the region.”.

The new facility, the company said, will assemble enhanced versions of its Dana 30 and Dana 44 axles beginning in late 2017. It said the updated products “will deliver increased power density and performance in a smaller package.” Pyle said there will be room at the facility for future axle programs and assembly lines.

The plant, Pyle said, will employ more than 300 people by 2020, a majority of which will be production workers. He declined to comment on whether the workers are expected to unionize, saying “it’s much more a question for the future employees of the plant.”

“They will be the ones who will decide No. 1, whether or not the plant will be represented; and No. 2, which union affiliation they might choose, if they in fact choose to be represented,” he said, adding Dana is “neutral” on the matter.

The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority recently redeveloped the Willys-Overland Motors property in conjunction with NAI Harmon Group to make it into a supplier park. Dana is the first major tenant.

The company is receiving an undisclosed amount of financial assistance and other incentives to make the $70 million investment from the state of Ohio and JobsOhio, the Regional Growth Partnership, Lucas County, the city of Toledo, the Port Authority and First Energy.

Pyle declined to disclose the incentives, citing official approval that’s expected later this month.

mwayland@detroitnews.com