On Tuesday, the Stellantis Belvidere Assembly Plant made history when it produced its last 2023 Jeep® Cherokee (KL). The end of production marked almost 60 years of vehicle production, with the first car rolling off the assembly line on July 7th, 1965. Over the years, the facility had produced a whopping 11,714,918 vehicles.
The last vehicle to roll off the Belvidere Assembly line was a Diamond Black-colored 2023 Jeep Cherokee Altitude Lux 4×4.
However, on the same day that the Belvidere plant was idled, the automaker announced that it would invest a total of $155 million in three Kokomo, Indiana plants. The investment would be used to produce new electric drive modules (EDM) that would help power future electric vehicles. The announcement drew backlash from many Belvidere employees and local politicians, who expressed their disgust at the timing of the decision.
A spokesperson for Stellantis Corporate Communications issued the following statement recognizing the impact of the idling of the Belvidere Assembly Plant on the employees and the community:
“We know the idling of the Belvidere Assembly Plant brings lots of uncertainty for our remaining employees and the entire community. Decisions like these are always difficult and never made lightly as we realize the impact they will have.
In an effort to reduce the anxiety associated with these necessary decisions, we have agreed to offer packages to our employees as a way of making this transition easier. These packages include:
- Incentive Program – Retirement (IPR) for all retirement-eligible employees
- Pre-Retirement Leave (PRL) to bridge the gap for those employees who are within 24 months of being retirement eligible
- Voluntary Termination of Employment Program (VTEP) to provide an option to permanently separate from the Company
The election window for these offers will be from March 13th to April 26th, 2023.
During this time, we also will be canvassing employees who elect to stay with the company for relocation to the Detroit, Toledo, or Kokomo labor markets.
There are no easy answers to ensuring that we are taking the actions necessary to protect the future of the company and affordability for our customers as we transition to an electrified future. As our efforts to identify opportunities to repurpose the facility continue, we have nothing further to share at this time.”
After the closure of the plant yesterday evening, leaders of the United Auto Workers (UAW) expressed their concerns and issued a statement, which included the following remarks:
“UAW Local 1268 members at Belvidere have proudly built vehicles for Chrysler, then FCA, and now Stellantis since 1965. They have delivered quality and productivity for the corporation for generations,” says UAW President Ray Curry. “Stellantis’ ill-advised decision will have negative repercussions throughout the region and supplier network. It will disrupt lives, uproot families, and leave communities struggling to find economic drivers to pay for schools, roads, and other services.”
“It is notable that while Stellantis abandons this community after being part of it for almost 60 years, the corporation has benefitted from numerous and generous subsidies, federal loans, grants, and tax abatements – all paid for by U.S. taxpayers,” adds UAW Region 4 Director Brandon Campbell. “The cruelty of its decision was heightened last week when the company disclosed that CEO Carlos Tavares received a staggering compensation package of $24.8 million for 2022, despite the company’s shareholders questioning the excessive compensation given to Tavares in 2021. All of this done by a global company which looks to the U.S. market for 48% of its revenue.”
“We have immediately addressed the concerns of the 2,300 affected employees by negotiating with the company on retirement packages, voluntary termination, as well as pre-retirement leaves to allow employees to grow into their retirement. We are also working with interested members on the relocation process,” notes UAW Vice President and Director of the National Stellantis Department Rich Boyer. “While the power of collective bargaining softens the blow for UAW Local 1268 members who work for Stellantis, we know that the options are much more limited for the supplier network which includes UAW members as well as the community at large. This economic dislocation is a choice made by Stellantis to reap even higher profits. We will highlight their corporate greed to workers, community, taxpayers, and consumers.”
The closure of the Stellantis Belvidere Assembly Plant marks a significant moment in the automotive industry’s history. While the decision to idle the plant highlights the importance of adapting to the changing landscape of the industry as it transitions to an electrified future.