Chrysler’s parent company confirms it: the Jeep Cherokee will be produced at the Belvidere Assembly Plant starting next year.
Fiat-Chrysler America’s spokesperson Jodi Tinson says the company is making a big investment in Belvidere: $350-million to retool the plant and eventually, 300 new full-time jobs.
The plant will stop making Darts and Patriots by the end of the year. Then the massive overhaul begins so it can start producing more than 350-thousand Jeep Cherokees a year. George Welitschinsky is president of the UAW local representing Belvidere’s workers. He says they feel “a heckuva lot more job security” with the announcement, with a “new product, new investment, millions being invested in your plant, you know that you are in there for the future and for the long haul.”
Fiat Chrysler is also adding another 700 jobs in Toledo, Ohio to help increase production of Wranglers. It’s all part of a strategy to expand its hottest-selling larger Jeep models.
There was more good news for workers at the Belvidere plant Thursday: they earned Bronze status in the company’s World Class Manufacturing program, which rewards efficiency, productivity, and quality. Tinson says “it’s a testament to all the workers there who dedicated themselves to making that award happen and to this new investment as well.”
Belvidere will continue to produce Dodge Darts until September and Jeep Compasses and Patriots until the end of the year. Welitschinsky says then the plant may close down for as long as two months early next year to retool and retrain.