A shortage of steering wheels is disrupting production of the Jeep Cherokee and also has slowed output of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Automotive News has learned.
A third consecutive shift of Cherokee production at Fiat Chrysler’s Toledo North Assembly Plant was canceled Thursday morning, and an afternoon shift there was shortened Tuesday because of the shortage, an FCA spokeswoman confirmed.
In addition, workers at the automaker’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit, which produces the Grand Cherokee, were sent home early Wednesday after a shortage of steering wheels shut down the line. Production there resumed Thursday morning, the spokeswoman said.
Production of the Jeep Wrangler, also built in Toledo, is unaffected.
The Cherokee, introduced in 2013, has become Jeep’s No. 1 selling model in the U.S., with the Grand Cherokee the brand’s second-best-selling model. U.S. sales of the Cherokee are flat this year through April while Grand Cherokee demand has climbed 9.5 percent.
The steering wheels are manufactured in Mexico by Key Safety Systems Inc., headquartered in Sterling Heights, Mich.
Key Safety Systems is No. 91 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 suppliers to North America, with an estimated $525 million in total North American original-equipment automotive parts sales in 2014.
Calls to Key Safety Systems seeking comment were not returned.
The FCA spokeswoman said the company is working with the supplier, which she refused to identify, “and will make production decisions for Toledo North on a shift-by-shift basis.”
FCA has some cushion in its supply of Cherokees and Grand Cherokees.
On May 1, FCA had 59,951 unsold Cherokees in its inventory, a 92-day supply, and 58,277 unsold Grand Cherokees in inventory, an 87-day supply. A 60-day supply is considered optimal.