DaimlerChrysler AG, the third-largest automaker in the U.S., plans to produce Jeep Cherokees in the U.S. until June 2002, 19 months longer than initially planned, a union official said.
The company initially expected to stop making Cherokees at a factory in Toledo, Ohio, in November 2000, as it readies a nearby plant to produce a new Jeep sport-utility vehicle early next year. The new closing date is June 14, 2002, for the existing factory, said Bruce Baumhower, president of United Auto Workers Local 12 at the plant.
The Toledo Jeep plant opened in 1906 as a bicycle factory, and is the oldest functioning vehicle-assembly plant in the U.S. The extension will provide employment for about 700 workers who won't be needed at the new plant, and may provide time to find an all-new product to extend its life, Baumhower said.
"This is great news for us," he said. "As long as they're breathing life into the old factory, we hope they'll refurbish some of the buildings and continue it forever."
DaimlerChrysler spokesman Trevor Hale wouldn't specify when the old plant will close. "We'll continue building the Cherokees as long as there's demand," he said.
After its new factory opens, DaimlerChrysler's Toledo Jeep operations will need about 4,000 workers, less than the current 4,700. No layoffs are planned, Hale said.
The new factory will open in the spring of 2001, and about 20 prototype vehicles have been completed, Hale said.