In the third quarter of this year, Jeep Cherokee sales is down a whopping 61 percent year-to-date compared to last year, with just 30,852 sold in the first nine months of 2022, according to Stellantis. Which is the context for an announcement Friday that Stellantis will idle the plant that makes Cherokees in Belvidere, Illinois. Could it be the end of the road for Cherokee too? At the moment, Stellantis is not saying.
Via WIFRStellantis has released the following statement:
Our industry has been adversely affected by a number of factors such as the ongoing covid-19 pandemic and the global shortage of microchips, but the biggest challenge is the increasing costs related to the electrification of the automotive market.
Stellantis has taken a number of steps to stabilize production and improve efficiency at its North American facilities to maintain affordability and customer satisfaction in terms of quality.
While Stellantis considers other avenues to optimize operations, Stellantis has made the decision to idle the Belvidere (Illinois) Assembly plant effective February 28, 2023.
This difficult but necessary action will result in indefinite layoffs, which are expected to exceed six months and may constitute a loss of employment under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN). As a result, WARN notices have been issued to both hourly and white-collar workers. The Company will make every effort to place employees permanently in open full-time positions as they become available.
The company is also working to identify other opportunities to reuse the Belvidere facility and has no additional details to share at this time.
The UAW, which represents workers at the plant, also released a statement, and they’re pretty crazy:
“We are all deeply angered by Stellantis’ decision to idle the Belvidere Assembly plant without a plan for future product,” said UAW Vice President and Stellantis Chapter Director Cindy Estrada. “There are many vehicle platforms imported from other countries that could be built in Belvidere with the skill and quality of UAW members at Belvidere. The transition to electrification also creates opportunities for new products. Companies like Stellantis are getting billions in government incentives to transition to clean energy. It’s an insult to all taxpayers that they’re not investing that money back into our communities.”
“We believe that Stellantis is grossly misguided in operating this facility at idle that has been profitable for the company since 1965,” added UAW President Ray Curry. “Not allocating new product to facilities like Belvidere is unacceptable. Announcing the closure just weeks after 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.”
About 1,350 employees work at Belvidere, according to a spokeswoman for Stellantis, employees who are now believed to be very concerned about their future, a story that has played out across the Midwest over and over for decades now, as automakers have shut down factories and left broken communities in their wake.
It was like recently as in 2016 when Stellantis announced it it would invest $350 million in the Belvidere facility to help make Cherokee, though it’s been almost exclusively bad news ever since for Belvidere, with waves of layoffs in recent years, including earlier this year. They came in the midst of the same kind of supply chain issues that all automakers have dealt with in recent years, but they also came because sales of the Cherokee have simply cratered.
At the moment, Stellantis isn’t saying whether Cherokee will leave along with the idleness of the facility, but they’re not exactly saying it won’t either. Stellanti’s spokeswoman had this to say about it at the time:
We are not commenting on the future of the Cherokee nameplate. This is an important vehicle in the range, and we remain committed to this mid-size SUV segment for the long term.