Officials of the union that represents Toledo Jeep workers yesterday blasted comments by plant manager Ed Mercer suggesting that Toledo shouldn’t be considered for a new vehicle under consideration by the car maker.
"His comments are totally inappropriate," bristled Bruce Baumhower, president of United Auto Workers Local 12. "He wonders why he has a morale problem."
Union leaders at the DaimlerChrysler AG plant are seeking a third vehicle to provide employment for workers whose jobs were eliminated or reduced when the bulk of Toledo assembly shifted to a new factory last year.
Some auto industry experts have said the state-of-the art facility would be a logical place to build the Compass, a concept car unveiled this year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit and is believed to be under consideration for production by the automaker.
But Mr. Mercer said in a Blade story Sunday related to the first anniversary of the Jeep Liberty that the factory is too busy building the successful sport-utility vehicle.
"With the orders we have right now here in Toledo, it would not make sense to build another product ... until we have all our other plants fully utilized," Mr. Mercer said. "Right now, I think somebody else deserves the time to shine."
Mr. Mercer couldn’t be reached for comment yesterday. But Michele Tinson, a company spokesman in Auburn Hills, Mich., said the plant official’s remarks were primarily a response to complaints from workers and the UAW about heavy overtime. Workers have been putting in 10-hour days and many Saturdays to meet Liberty demand.
Another vehicle model hasn’t been ruled out for the Toledo operation, although there are no specific plans for one now, she said.
"Ed Mercer ... is there to support the union and employees at the highest level," Ms. Tinson said. "Although he wants another plant to receive the recognition this facility has received for the successful launch of the Liberty, that doesn’t mean more business may not be coming that way."
The Toledo plant, which also makes the Jeep Wrangler, could accommodate another vehicle by adding a third shift, said Nick Vuich, UAW chairman at the plant.