Even though not a single production Liberty has left the building, DamilerChrysler has renewed the all-new 2002 Jeep Liberty through the year 2003. DC recently announced a massive $269 million loss for the last three months of 2000, but apprently has enough confidence in the new Liberty to give it the seal of approval for at least 2 model years. Here's a link to the full story on the recent DC woes.
While the Liberty's manufacturer is trying to return to profitability, the city that assembles the Liberty is reveling in its new assembly plant. Toledo, Ohio, home to the assembly plants for the Wrangler and Cherokee (for now) as well, has depended on the Jeep plants for economic stabilty for years. The Toledo Blade recently published an article outlining the effects the Jeep plants have had on its community. Here's a snippet:
After a half-dozen years of planning, negotiating, building, and testing, DaimlerChrysler’s new $1 billion Toledo North Assembly Plant is nearly ready to make the Jeep Liberty this spring and have the model in showrooms by summer.
"We’re in the final throes of delivering this baby," plant manager Edward Mercer said.
The Liberty and its highly automated home that eventually will employ 2,000 workers symbolize a rebirth for Toledo, where the Jeep brand was born six decades ago. The compact sport-utility vehicle will replace the locally built Cherokee in Jeep’s 2002 lineup, and much of the aging Jeep Parkway factory will be retired along with the long-lived SUV.
Many had hoped to get at least another year out of the Cherokee, the passing of which will eliminate an estimated 800 jobs and could lead to layoffs. News that the Wrangler will be built on one instead of two shifts and have a quarter of its overall production cut in August is another blow affecting 200 or so more jobs.
But as DaimlerChrysler pares its North and South American operations amid an industry slowdown, union and economic-development officials are grateful Toledo has a new plant.
"We have the most modern plant, and it’s going to be cost efficient," said Eileen Granata, vice president of Toledo’s Regional Growth Partnership. "The [industry] downturn, if nothing else, should really emphasize how important the project has really been for this community."
Local and state economic-development officials hatched a $280 million incentive package nearly four years ago in return for a $1.2 billion investment from the former Chrysler Corp. Wranglers will continue to be made at the Toledo Jeep Assembly factories at Stickney Avenue and at Jeep Parkway. Toledo Jeep employs approximately 5,000.
DaimlerChrysler and United Auto Workers Local 12 have high hopes for the Liberty, which is curvier than the Cherokee but maintains the classic Jeep grille between round headlights.
The new Jeep plant can make 200,000 Libertys annually on two shifts, but another shift and more Toledo Jeep workers could be added if sales take off. Or, as one of DaimlerChrysler’s U.S. unit’s most flexible plants, Toledo North could produce a second vehicle.
Adding a third vehicle to Liberty and Wrangler production - one job-securing scenario union officials hope for - would crown Toledo’s manufacturing rebirth.
For the entire article, click here.