Details on FCA's new plant coming soon

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Mike Manley

Detroit — Fiat Chrysler needs to add capacity to build new Jeeps, CEO Mike Manley said at the Detroit auto show Monday. The automaker is expected this month to announce details about where it will add that capacity.

The Detroit News reported in December that Fiat Chrysler had plans to convert the idled Mack Avenue Engine II plant in Detroit into an assembly plant as part of the automaker's plans to add two new three-row Jeep SUVs to its lineup.

Manley did not say Monday where the automaker would add capacity to build the vehicles. He said that two new three-row SUVs — expected to be a full-size a Jeep Grand Cherokee and a large SUV likely the Wagoneer — will “require additional (plant) capacity and expanded capacity.”

It's expected Mack II will build one of the SUVs, likely the Grand Cherokee.

“I’m going to be making an announcement probably in the next two weeks of exactly where those vehicles are going to go, the levels of investment and the jobs they will generate,” Manley said.

Sources told The Detroit News in December that a revived Mack II building a three-row Grand Cherokee would generate 400 jobs. The automaker would shuffle its workforce to fill the remaining jobs needed to run a new product line at that plant.

The Mack Avenue Engine II, which has been idled since 2012, is expected to be used to build the Grand Cherokee for model year 2021, multiple sources familiar with the plans told The News in December. The move could add as many as 400 new auto jobs in the city. 

The renovated Mack II facility would be the first new auto assembly line to open in Detroit in 27 years, potentially cushioning the blow of General Motors Co.'s plans to stop production of four sedans at its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant by June 1.
Fiat Chrysler needs to invest in a new assembly line to build the profitable SUVs that will raise cash to fund that future. Fiat Chrysler’s plant capacity utilization in November hit 92 percent in North America.

FCA's plans are the latest move by automakers before they begin to renegotiate their contracts with the United Auto Workers.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau