The UAW and political leaders are gathering Monday in a community-wide effort to keep Jeep Wrangler production in its original home of Toledo, Ohio, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office said Friday.
“The Jeep Wrangler represents the reliability and tough grit that embody Toledo,” Brown said. “The vehicle’s proud legacy is matched only by that of the workers at the Chrysler Assembly.”
Brown, Rep. Marcy Kaptur and Mayor D. Michael Collins will join a group of workers, local leaders and community members at UAW Local 12 to launch the effort to keep the Wrangler at the Chrysler Assembly Plant. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne earlier this month said the next Wrangler may have be built off a unibody platform, feature smaller engines and switch to an aluminum body.
Those changes could mean the Wrangler would have to find a production site outside Toledo, Marchionne said.
“If the solution is aluminum, then I think unfortunately that Toledo is the wrong place, the wrong setup to try and build a Wrangler, because it requires a complete reconfiguring of the assets that would be cost-prohibitive,” Marchionne said. “It would be so outrageously expensive that it would be impossible to try and work out of that facility.”
After this announcement, Brown and Kaptur wrote to Marchionne, asking him to keep Wrangler production and jobs in Toledo.
“The Jeep brand has played a critical role in the city’s development and in Chrysler’s resurgence since the auto rescue,” they wrote. “Toledo workers have been building Jeeps for more than 70 years, and can outcompete anyone in the world with their knowledge, skills and work ethic.”
Marchionne met with Mayor Collins last week. After their meeting, FCA said, “Fiat Chrysler Automobiles valued the opportunity to continue the dialogue with representatives from the City of Toledo and the State of Ohio today relative to production at the Toledo Assembly Complex.
“It was a productive meeting that helped further the understanding of all parties. It is important to emphasize that Fiat Chrysler remains committed to producing vehicles in Toledo and anticipates employment to remain at current levels. The parties have agreed to meet again in short order.”
Bruce Baumhower, the president of UAW Local 12, which represents hourly workers at the Jeep plant, invited about 40 elected officials and businessmen to join the UAW on Monday. They aim to create a task force to identify and overcome any disadvantages of Wrangler production staying in Toledo so that they can “go to work on those issues.”
“We have really been married to that vehicle for 70 years. It’s part of our DNA,” he said. “We get all in -- totally engaged in our work and the products we make. We are calling on our leaders to help fix those roadblocks.”
Jeep Wrangler production relies on 1,700 workers at the Chrysler Assembly plant and 800 employees at suppliers within 5 miles of the factory, the statement said. The plant, which has been manufacturing Jeeps since the 1940s, has more than 6,000 employees and has been recognized as the most efficient assembly plant in North America twice, the statement said.
At the Detroit auto show just 10 months ago, Marchionne said FCA will always build Wranglers in Toledo.
“We’re still looking for ways to increase the output of that plant because one of the commitments we’ve made is never to produce a Wrangler outside of Toledo,” he said. “So whatever Wranglers are going to be made are going to be made there as long as I’m the CEO. They’ll not be built anywhere else.”
Through September, Wrangler’s U.S. sales this year have risen 12 percent to 134,068 vehicles. Jeep’s total U.S. sales have skyrocketed 45 percent this year to 516,387 vehicles.