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Doing the factory shuffle

by David Zatz on

Jeep’s decision to kick Cherokee out of Toledo and use its plant for the Wrangler, boosting production of the “Jeep that controls all Jeeps,” highlighted the issues the former Chrysler faces as some vehicles outgrow their factories and others languish.

Platform Plants Vehicles
JK/JL (To be) Toledo #2 Wrangler
Undetermined (To be) Toledo #1 ?
CUSW (and related) (to be) Windsor, Belvidere, Sterling Heights Future minivan, large crossover, possibly large car, 200, Cherokee, Dart, possible Journey replacement
N-R Unknown Midsize Dodge car, midsize Dodge crossover, possible Jeep, possible compact Dodge, possible large car
Lx Brampton Current Charger, Challenger, 300 series
SUSW Italy Renegade; future Compass; Chrysler 100
Various Toluca, Windsor Fiat 500 (moving to Europe), Journey (changing platforms), Minivan
Truck (various) Saltillo, Warren Ram pickups, chassis-cabs. ProMaster in Saltillo. ProMaster City in Europe. Ram 700 in Brazil.

Cherokee could easily move to either of the two underused CUSW plants, but we suspect there’s a huge new body shop in Sterling Heights for a reason.

Belvidere, which now handles Dart, Patriot, and Compass, could be updated to handle both CUSW and SUSW, thereby taking on the Renegade, Chrysler 100, Compass, and whatever else shows up on SUSW in the future.

2016 Jeep Compass

N-R is our thoroughly unofficial term for the New Rear-drive platform/architecture being developed for Dodge and Alfa Romeo.  This could end up in the current Wrangler plant after a refit, or perhaps Dart could join 200 and Cherokee in Sterling Heights and Belvidere could be re-fit for rear drive cars. Or Brampton could handle both medium and large cars, or Toluca will be pressed into service.

Timing is a terrible problem for FCA right now. The time to be converting plants has already passed, yet all the plants are busy producing what they need to in order to keep cash coming and prevent sales from falling, which would hurt the company’s image. Cars must be moved around, and a third Ram truck plant in the US would be ideal. Some companies would create new factories in the non-union Southeast and idle the Northern plants, throwing thousands of people onto the unemployment queue, but that’s not Sergio Marchionne’s way.

welding at Brampton

It’s already past time for the Cherokee plant in Toledo to convert to Wranglers, but Sterling Heights doesn’t seem to have started its conversion yet, much less Toledo. Chrysler 100 seems to have no place to go, with Toluca still making 500s and Journeys, and Sterling Heights and Belvidere are still under-used. Then there’s the question of Brampton, coming up soon for union negotiations, in a province where subsidies for corporations seems to be a dirty thought.

SUSW could also be made entirely in Italy — Compass, Chrysler 100, Renegade, and all.

Sergio Marchionne, often derided as a moral-free number-cruncher, isn’t just moving everything to a new, free plant in Alabama or Mexico, sitting where productive farms used to be.  That may give him some credibility and leverage in forthcoming UAW and UNIFOR negotiations, and help him keep skilled workers in the relatively tight circle of FCA’s North American domain.

David Zatz founded Allpar in 1998 (based on a site he had begun in 1993-94), after years of writing reviews for retail trades. He has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. Before making Allpar a full-time career, he was a consultant in organizational psychology. You can reach him by using our contact form (much preferred) or by calling (313) 766-2304


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