Jeep Wrangler Production to Stay in Toledo
Good news, Mud Hens fans – the Jeep Wrangler isn’t going anywhere.
At least, production of Jeep’s incredibly popular compact mid-size SUV isn’t going to leave Toledo. After months-long indecision about how to expand production of its Wrangler model, Fiat Crysler Automotive (FCA) has decided to move production of the Wrangler to the north side of its Toledo Assembly Complex – thus choosing to send production of the Jeep Cherokee, which is produced there now, somewhere else.
Are you a Jeep fan? Have you had your eyes on some used Jeep Wranglers? Like buying American cars? Then you’ll enjoy knowing FCA will be keeping the Wrangler in Toledo.
The decision was first reported by Automotive News on Sept. 1, based on an interview with FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne. Although FCA has still not released a formal timeline for the transition, Marchionne did provide Automotive News with some details.
“We found a solution that accommodates a variety of other interests to us because of the way in which we can move some product around,” the CEO said in the interview. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist [to know] that the only way I can move around the Wrangler is to move it into the other Toledo plant.”
The Toledo Assembly Complex is actually made of up two distinct production plants: one smaller body-on-frame plant where the Wrangler is built and another unibody plant, recently constructed, that builds the Cherokee. In order to produce Wranglers instead of Cherokees, FCA would have to update the unibody plant to body-on-frame, which will take time and money.
FCA plans to have the Toledo Assembly Complex producing Wranglers by summer of 2016. Once completed, the company also plans to begin production on the oft-discussed by still-under-development Wrangler-based pickup. It is in this plant that Jeep will also be producing its yet-to-be-fully-designed 2018 Wrangler refresh.
Last December, Marchionne made waves by suggesting that the next generation of Wrangler would be made mostly of aluminum, and would thus make re-tooling the Toledo too costly to be worthwhile. This decision, plus a gradual scaling back of promises of an aluminum Wrangler, seem to have quelled those fears.
Production of the Cherokee, as Automotive News suggests, would likely be shifted to FCA’s Sterling Heights Assembly plant in Michigan, or possibly its Belvidere Assembly in Illinois. These also pose problems involving the plants needing re-tooling to be able to produce Cherokees, and thus is still under consideration.
According to Automotive News, the conversion of the Toledo plant could also signal a future re-tooling of FCA’s Warren Assembly in Michigan, where it currently produces its other biggest selling vehicle: the Ram 1500. Marchionne told Automotive News that FCA can not afford to stop production of the Ram 1500 in order to re-tool, and could shift production temporarily to Toledo.
The negotiations have dragged out because of stalled negotiations with United Auto Workers, who argued that removal of Cherokee production – Jeep’s best-selling model – would hurt the Toledo plant. By replacing Cherokee production with Wrangler production, FCA is able to soften that blow.
In April, the Detroit Free News reported that FCA has spent months and millions of dollars buying up land around the factory, possibly for expansion and greater production of the 2018 Wrangler or Wrangler-based pickup.
So for the nearly 6,000 employees to the Toledo Assembly Complex, the residents of Toledo who benefit from the money and capital FCA brings in, Wrangler fans everywhere, drivers of new and used Jeep Wranglers, and supporters of American manufacturers and automakers, this shift seems to be a sign of good things to come.