What does the redesigned Jeep Cherokee mean to Toledo and to northwest Ohio? Plenty.
In immediate terms, it means good manufacturing jobs. Chrysler has made a $500 million investment in the Toledo Assembly Complex, now one of the most advanced auto-assembly plants in the United States. A second shift is anticipated; a third shift is a possibility.
The plant built 243,000 vehicles in 2011 and 275,000 vehicles last year. By 2015, Chrysler and union officials agree, Toledo could build half a million vehicles a year. “That’ll make us the largest assembly plant in North America,” said Bruce Baumhower, president of the United Auto Workers local at the plant.
The Cherokee sport-utility vehicle is more evidence that the economic base of the country is being reinvigorated, maybe reinvented. It shows that good manufacturing jobs are not gone, and neither is the way of life that goes with them. This country is not going to be an economic colony of China.
But to keep and create good jobs, all the stakeholders — business leaders and union leaders alike — must be creative and willing to change. To fill these jobs, we need engineers and mathematicians to do the analytic work and a work force that has technical know-how. This means investing in all levels of education.
Cherokee shows us, again, that American automakers can build cars and trucks that are equal to any others in the world. This new Cherokee is even better than the Liberty it will replace. It is slicker, preserves the fun factor, and gets 31 miles per gallon.
Finally, the Cherokee means pride for Toledo. Some cities have lost their economic base, and there is nothing left for them but entertainment venues and strip malls. Many fears and dire predictions have passed by these past 30 years, but the factory is still humming and Chrysler is still investing in this town. Toledo still has Jeep. And now it has the Cherokee.