Stellantis’ Belvidere Assembly Plant has continued to face problems, since before the pandemic. The Illinois facility currently manufactures only one product – the Jeep® Cherokee (KL).
With lackluster sales on the global market (thanks to the introduction of Jeep’s own globally-built Compass), the ongoing semiconductor shortage, and being the second oldest Jeep vehicle (behind the Grand Cherokee WK2, which is continuing to be built in 2022), sales of the Cherokee have dwindled over the past few years.
Last updated for the 2019 model year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) now Stellantis, promised Jeep fans several new derivatives of the Cherokee (including a new Deserthawk model), but to no avail. Instead, the Cherokee has continued to try to offer value over function in its lineup, making the vehicle look and feel older than other vehicles in the brand’s lineup.
But instead of trying to keep the Cherokee fresh, the Jeep brand has moved forward with the development of its next-generation Jeep Cherokee (KM) rather than helping the failing Cherokee (KL). Jeep did unveil a new value-based Cherokee X package for 2022, however, it was nothing more than shuffling a few equipment packages around and slapping some new graphics on the current vehicle.
These overall actions have left the Belvidere Assembly Plant in dire straights. So much so, that over the past three years, 70% of the workforce has been cut from the plant. Before 2019, the plant had a workforce of over 5,000 employees, as of now, the Belvidere facility has about 1,600 employees on site. According to a statement released by Stellantis, it will be cutting more positions in May, to allow the automaker to “operate the plant in a more sustainable manner”, it said in a statement last week.
“The reductions will be achieved through a combination of retirement packages offered to eligible UAW-represented employees as well as layoffs of both hourly and salaried staff,” a Stellantis spokesperson said. “The company notified affected employees, the state of Illinois, the city of Belvidere, and the UAW [on] March 28th that layoffs could begin as early as May 27th, 2022, with retirements taking effect on May 31st, 2022.”
The automaker did not disclose details about the number of positions it plans to eliminate at the Belvidere facility.
According to several industry sources (like AutoForecast Solutions) and yet to be confirmed by the automaker, the Belvidere Assembly Plant will be retooled next year, to prepare for the production of the next generation of electric vehicles starting in 2024. Those vehicles will more than likely be the next-generation Dodge Challenger (LB) and Charger (LF), as well as a third possible (non-Jeep) vehicle.
The next-generation Cherokee (KM) is more than likely to be built alongside the Compass at the Toluca Mexico plant.
Employees at the Belvidere plant were also notified this past week, that Stellantis has canceled production at the facility for the week of Monday, April 4th, 2022. Workers are scheduled to return to work the following Monday, according to UAW Local 1268.