A source within the Melfi plant in Italy reported on the recently reported showing of the new Jeep to plant workers. He wrote, “The new model is unmistakably a Jeep.” The cars do share the B-Wide platform (dimensions), but with a different architecture and many suspension changes, along with different engines and visible parts. The car is longer and higher than the 500L, and those who saw it had a positive reaction.
A team from Brazil was also present, studying products for the Brazilian market, including a rumored pickup longer than the current Brazilian Strada.
The B-Jeep and 500X have required a roughly-$1.3 billion plant investment, around half of which is paid by Chrysler, which will sell its vehicle worldwide.
The Melfi factory has been completely rebuilt in many parts, with technologically advanced lines and flex-capable robots, now capable, the source wrote, of over 1,000 bodies/day with fewer people. Time-motion studies are going down to portions of a second, while supervisors and managers will work next to the line to immediately see and resolve problems. The objective is to build a higher proportion of defect-free cars than Japanese or German factories.
The Jeep will not be built until everything is “perfect,” probably in the first half of 2014, and production numbers are to be kept low to assure quality, with 150,000 per year not to be reached until 2015.
The plant workers are hopeful, according to our source, thanks to the new investments. At the moment, the massive plant is only making the old Fiat Punto, which has low demand; they built just over 100,000 from January to October, down from over 600,000 in 1995.