FCA investing $1B, adding 1,000 jobs at Jeep plants

Michael Wayland

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will invest more than $1 billion and create 1,000 new jobs at two Midwest assembly plants for future production of Jeep SUVs.

The automaker on Thursday announced it will invest about $700 million and add 700 workers at the Toledo Assembly Complex North plant for production of the next-generation Jeep Wrangler. An announcement regarding the future of the South plant at the complex will be made at a later date, the company said.

Fiat Chrysler also will invest $350 million and add about 300 new workers at its Belvidere Assembly in Illinois to produce the Jeep Cherokee, which will move from its current production location in Toledo in 2017.

Production of the Dodge Dart compact sedan and Jeep Compass/Jeep Patriot will end in September 2016 and December 2016, respectively at Belvidere Assembly. A replacement for the Jeep models will be unveiled this year.

Jeep CEO Mike Manley last month told reporters the next-generation Wrangler will be unveiled in the first half of next year, with the development of the iconic SUV on schedule for 2017.

The Belvidere and Toledo plants employ nearly 10,000. More than 5,100 are in Toledo.

The “production actions are subject to the formal approval of incentives by state and local entities,” said the company, which has announced investments of more than $6.8 billion and added more than 23,500 employees — including nearly 18,000 hourly workers — at its U.S. operations since 2009.

The plans are part of a previously announced strategy for the automaker to focus its North American production operations on pickups and SUVS.

The company’s overall production plan for its domestic plants was loosely outlined as part of the automaker’s collective bargaining agreement with the United Auto Workers in 2015. It involved investing $5.3 billion in production in the United States, including $3.4 billion in assembly operations.

A Fiat Chrysler spokeswoman declined to comment on investments the local plants, saying the company has “nothing to add about future plans for the Michigan plants at this time.”

Plans for Michigan include shifting production of the Ram 1500 from Warren Assembly to Sterling Heights Assembly, as the company intends to stop producing the Chrysler 200 sedan — its sole product — later this year or early 2017. That would leave Warren free to produce future Jeep products such as the Grand Wagoneer luxury SUV.

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne earlier this year said Sterling Heights Assembly would “be down for less than two years” to retool for the new pickup. He did not provide a timetable for Warren’s expected retooling.

The company employs more than 9,500 at the assembly plants in Sterling Heights and Warren as well as supporting stamping plants.

The move will be a welcomed change for the more than 3,000 workers who produce the Chrysler 200 in Sterling Heights. Due to poor sales, employees have been on temporary layoffs for much of this year, with a shift of about 1,300 starting indefinite layoffs on July 5.


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