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Automotive

Jeep to cease production of Liberty Aug. 16

80 supplier jobs to be lost; gains expected with new SUV model

Jeep-Liberty-replacement

Little is known about the replacement for the Jeep Liberty, except that the next-generation Jeep will be more fuel-efficient and carlike.

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Jeep will stop building the Liberty sport utility vehicle on Aug. 16, a move that will eliminate some jobs at local suppliers that did not get contracts for the incoming model. However, other suppliers stand to add workers when Jeep begins producing the next-generation replacement in 2013.

Dana Holding Corp. and Faurecia Inc. will each cut about 40 jobs that support the Toledo-built Liberty, The Blade has learned.

Chuck Hartlage, a spokesman for Dana, confirmed the Mamuee-based parts supplier will close a small axle assembly plant at 315 Matzinger Rd. Mr. Hartlage said the plant's 37 employees have been notified the plant will be shuttered Aug. 16.

Union officials affirmed that Aug. 16 is Chrysler Group LLC's shut-down date for the Liberty line.

Dana opened the Matzinger Road plant in 2006 specifically to supply the Liberty and the now-defunct Dodge Nitro. But as Chrysler prepares to bring an all-new model to the Toledo Assembly complex, that work no longer will be there.

"Every time a program or a vehicle is updated, you may continue to supply the parts or they may source it elsewhere," Mr. Hartlage said. "We're not going to be supplying the next generation on that specific part. We still have a lot of business on Jeep vehicles."

Bruce Baumhower, president of UAW Local 12, said Chrysler is bringing axle assembly work back in-house.

In a filing with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Dana said the layoffs are permanent, though Mr. Hartlage said those losing their jobs would be able to bid for open jobs at other Dana locations. There's also a chance they could find their way to Chrysler to continue doing the same work.

"Our hope is Chrysler hires those people because they have experience in that," Mr. Baumhower said.

Local 12 represents workers at the Dana plant and the Toledo Assembly complex, as well as the Faurecia plant in Northwood that builds interior door panels for the Liberty.

That plant stands to lose about 40 workers. Mr. Baumhower said Faurecia was not awarded similar work for the incoming model, which has yet to be publicly named by Chrysler.

On the other side of the rub is Johnson Controls, which will add jobs at its Northwood location.

"They got all the new dash panel and seat work, so they're going to be adding 100 people," Mr. Baumhower said. "It's kind of a mixed bag. Dana's losing about 40, Faurecia's losing about 40, but Johnson Controls is gaining."

Chrysler has been mostly silent about the incoming SUV that will replace the current Liberty. Based on the same platform as the new Dodge Dart, the next-generation Jeep is expected to be more carlike and fuel-efficient, but retain enough off-road capability to please the Jeep crowd.

After the last Liberty rolls off the line, the plant will be shut down for six to eight months as Chrysler retools what is now the Liberty production line.

Dan Henneman, Jeep unit chairman for UAW Local 12, said Chrysler is working out the details for the shutdown, including its length. Wrangler production is done in a separate part of the plant and will not be affected.

When the plant reopens, it will do so with a much higher output capacity -- perhaps as high as 450,000 vehicles a year. According to Chrysler data, the Liberty/Nitro line produced 103,974 vehicles in 2011. Chrysler has said five models could be made in Toledo. At those levels, there's a great opportunity for the region to add more supplier jobs.

Union officials have said they believe there is potential for 800 to 1,000 new supplier jobs to feed parts to the line.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.

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