Toledo will keep producing Jeep Wranglers but will stop manufacturing the top-selling Jeep Cherokee, according to a plan detailed today to employees at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Toledo Assembly Complex.
Top management at the plant told employees that workforce levels would remain stable, but did not detail when the changes are to take place.
Fiat Chrysler has been working for months to determine how to best make more Wranglers, and among the options being discussed was moving the vehicle to another plant elsewhere. Though keeping Wrangler production in Toledo has been a top priority for both local labor leaders and city officials, today’s news caught them all off guard.
Jeep Wrangler JK models roll off the assembly line at Chrysler Toledo Assembly Complex.
Bruce Baumhower, president of the United Auto Workers Local 12, said he was happy to hear the company intends to keep building Wranglers here, but he was concerned about Cherokee’s future.
“Our mission has not changed,” he said. “It’s to keep the Wrangler and certainly not to lose something else. We’re looking to grow our operation here in Toledo, certainly not to reduce it in any way.”
One of the biggest hurdles to keeping the Wrangler in Toledo was finding a way to do it without shutting down production while the plant shifts over to the next-generation model. Moving the Cherokee elsewhere would eliminate that problem, allowing the company to change over the north side of the Toledo Assembly Complex to build the next-generation Wrangler while the south side continues building the current Wrangler.
Automotive News first reported Fiat Chrysler’s plan at about the same time that workers in Toledo were learning about it. The trade publication reported that Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne plans to add Wrangler-based truck to the Jeep lineup, which will also be built in Toledo.
Toledo officials reacted to the threat of losing Wrangler production by putting together an incentive plan in the spring that was to try to keep production in Toledo, including construction of a new plant near the existing Wrangler factory to enable added production. Fiat Chrysler officials have not responded to the city’s offer, which included use of large plot of land nearby which the city purchased and cleaned up for a possible new assembly plant.
The line of fully assembled Jeep Cherokees at the Toledo Assembly Complex.
A Fiat Chrysler spokesman said today the company had no further comment on the Wrangler and Cherokee plans.
Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson said when asked about the Jeep news: "We're excited. This is good news.“
She added: "It is a good day for the city. what we understand is we are going to have the Wrangler. I am thinking there will be an increase in employment.
She acknowledged possible job loss with the departure of the Cherokee, but noted that the Toledo plant would, based on the trade industry report, gain the production of a pickup truck.
The mayor credited the Jeep work force, the city-county-private incentive package, and the land that the city acquired for potential expansion as reasons for the Fiat Chrysler plan.
Calvin Lawshe, Toledo’s director of development, said today that city did not hear from Fiat Chrysler about its plans for Wrangler.
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