The Belvidere plant will be idled at the end of February and workers are angry.
Jeep's parent company Stellantis has announced it will indefinitely idle its plant in Belvidere, Illinois at the end of this February as a "necessary action" due to increasing costs stemming from EVs and other industry-related issues. The Jeep Cherokee is built at the facility located west of Chicago and currently has 1,350 salaried employees and hourly workers. All have been sent layoff notices.
"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 spokeswoman Jodi Tinson 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."
As expected, the United Auto Workers union is very angry about the decision and vowed to "fight back against this announcement." It may be a fight they can't win.
"We believe Stellantis is grossly misguided in idling this plant which has produced profits for the company since 1965," UAW President Ray Curry said. "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."
The announcement, aside from the timing, does not come as a big surprise. The facility's future status has been uncertain for some time and has already experienced downtime and layoffs. Stellantis added that it will make sincere efforts to relocate laid-off employees to other available full-time positions at other plants as they become available.
However, the automaker has not answered another question: What's the status of the Cherokee? Belvidere is the only facility in North America that builds the crossover for this market. Will Cherokee production be shifted elsewhere, possibly back to Toledo, Ohio? Jeep moved Cherokee production from Toledo to Belvidere in 2017.
CarBuzz has reached out to Stellantis seeking comment and we'll update this article if we receive a reply. Until then, the Cherokee's future remains uncertain and over 1,300 people are likely to be out of work in just a few months.