Production of the Jeep Cherokee in Toledo is expected to come to an end in early April as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles begins to prepare part of its plant here for the next-generation Jeep Wrangler.
Local union officials say the facility will be shut down for about six months as the company replaces tooling and adapts the assembly line for the body-on-frame Wrangler.
In April, Cherokee production will move from Toledo Assembly Complex to a Belvidere, Ill., plant.
Fiat Chrysler hasn’t announced a launch date for that new Wrangler.
However, Bruce Baumhower, president of United Auto Workers Local 12, said normal production of the iconic four-by-four is to begin in November. Production of initial models, to work out production kinks, would start much earlier.
A Fiat Chrysler spokesman declined to comment.
The company has previously announced that the Cherokee would move to an existing Fiat Chrysler plant in Belvidere, Ill., sometime next year. Fiat Chrysler has committed to investing $350 million there to support the project.
Local media near Belvidere, which for the last decade has built the compact Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot, have reported that plant is already in the midst of its changeover.
The Rockford Register Star reported that retooling work would begin this week and quoted UAW officials there saying they anticipate the process to take about five months, which matches up with what local UAW officials told The Blade.
Production of the Compass and Patriot in Belvidere ended Dec. 23.
In Toledo, production of the current-generation Jeep Wrangler, on sale since the 2007 model year, will not be affected by the Cherokee’s move.
“The plant’s going to continue to run the current Wrangler just like they always have, working six or seven days a week,” Mr. Baumhower said.
That’s expected to continue until March, 2018, when Fiat Chrysler shuts down that side of the Toledo Assembly Complex to prepare it to launch a Wrangler-based pickup.
Fiat Chrysler officials said early this year that all 5,000 full-time jobs at the Toledo Assembly Complex will be protected, though they haven’t detailed how that would work, as total vehicle output is expected to drop once all the changes are complete.
In July, along with announcing the retooling in Toledo would mean a $700 million investment, Fiat Chrysler said it expected to add 700 new jobs in Toledo, though no further details have been released.
UAW leaders have expressed concerns about supplier jobs, however, as production of the Cherokee moves.
“We’ve spent a lot of time in the last couple of months looking into what impact this has on local suppliers and our members in the local suppliers in northwest Ohio,” Mr. Baumhower said.
The Cherokee remains one of the Jeep brand’s best-selling vehicles, with 183,356 sold through November.
However, sales are lagging from last year’s pace, and a recent report compiled by the trade publication Automotive News said the company had a 125-day supply of Cherokees going into December.
Those in the industry have generally said a 60-day supply is considered ideal.
Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at email@example.com or 419-724-6134.
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