Stellantis on Friday said it will indefinitely idle its Jeep Cherokee plant in Belvidere, Ill., early next year in what the UAW blasted as a "grossly misguided" decision.
In a statement, the automaker cited a number of factors that impacted its decision.
"Our industry has been adversely affected by a multitude of factors like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the global microchip shortage, but the most impactful challenge is the increasing cost related to the electrification of the automotive market," Stellantis said in a statement. "Stellantis has taken a number of actions to stabilize production and improve efficiency at its North American facilities to preserve affordability and customer satisfaction in terms of quality. While it considers other avenues to optimize operations, Stellantis has made the decision to idle the Belvidere Assembly plant effective Feb. 28, 2023."
The company said workers will be indefinitely laid off, although it will "make every effort" to place them in other full-time positions as they become available. Stellantis noted it is also working to "identify other opportunities to repurpose the Belvidere facility."
The future of the plant is likely to be among the key issues during next year's contract negotiations with the UAW.
"We believe Stellantis is grossly misguided in idling this plant which has produced profits for the company since 1965," UAW President Ray Curry said in a statement. "Not allocating new product to plants like Belvidere is unacceptable. Announcing the closure just a few weeks from the holidays is also a cruel disregard for the contributions of our members from UAW Locals 1268 and 1761. We will fight back against this announcement."
The plant's fate had been uncertain for some time as workers there have faced downtime and numerous layoffs.
"We are all deeply angered by Stellantis' decision to idle the Belvidere Assembly plant without a plan for future product," Cindy Estrada, UAW vice president in charge of the Stellantis department, said in a statement. "There are many vehicle platforms imported from other countries that could be built in Belvidere with skill and quality by UAW members at Belvidere. The transition to electrification also creates opportunities for new product. Companies like Stellantis receive billions in government incentives to transition to clean energy. It is an insult to all taxpayers that they are not investing that money back into our communities."