DETROIT -- Fiat Chrysler's plan to reconfigure its Toledo, Ohio, assembly complex next year to build the next-generation Jeep Wrangler will boost production of the popular SUV well beyond its current level, according to internal planning documents seen by Automotive News.
The new assembly plant for the Wrangler -- the Toledo factory that currently builds the Jeep Cherokee -- will be outfitted to produce about 350,000 Wranglers annually. That is roughly 50 percent more Wranglers than can now be produced.
And the company plans to continue making the current Wrangler into the first quarter of 2018, about six months after production of the new one is set to begin.
Together, the old and new Wrangler assembly lines will crank out Wranglers at the fastest pace in the off-roader's 75-year history.
Jeep brand head Mike Manley said this month that he wants to keep the balance between Wrangler supply and demand "at the right place, and to me that is supply just behind demand."
Toledo is the only plant in the world producing the Wrangler. In 2015, FCA chose to convert the Cherokee unibody plant in Toledo to body-on-frame production for the new Wrangler instead of adding capacity to the current line.
According to suppliers and planning documents, FCA intends for Toledo to continue building the unibody Cherokee until March 2017, when Cherokee production will move to Belvidere, Ill. Toledo's unibody plant will then go down for its conversion to body-on-frame production, expected to take about six months, while production of the current-generation Wrangler continues.
The current Wrangler -- likely to be marketed as the Wrangler Classic -- is scheduled to remain in production through March 2018.
A Wrangler-based pickup and a diesel-powered Wrangler, both expected to debut in 2018, are possible because of the extra production volume being added.
Manley declined to speculate on the level of global sales for the SUV when the capacity is added. But he said there is unmet demand today in North America, Asia-Pacific, Europe and Latin America.
"We've seen some weakness coming out of Asia, for the obvious reasons of where China is today," Manley said. "But we still see a strong order bank from the U.S., more demand from Europe, and still some residual demand from Asia that we can't fill."
Most Wrangler sales now are in North America, but it remains popular globally, Manley said.
"Wrangler is in demand in Europe because of what it stands for," he said.
"It is the incarnation of the most iconic American brand in the world, and the same thing [is true] in China, so demand continues to grow."