Stellantis has announced that it has indefinitely laid off 150 employees at its Belvidere Assembly Plant in Belvidere, Illinois earlier this week. The plant currently produces the midsized Jeep® Cherokee SUV, which has had several pauses in production recently due to decreased global demand and semiconductor chip shortages which have plagued the entire automotive industry going into 2021.
“The Stellantis plant in Belvidere, Illinois, is rebalancing its staffing levels as it realigns production to meet global demand for the Jeep Cherokee. Following a review of its operations, 150 people will be indefinitely laid off, starting Feb. 20, 2021. The company will make every effort to place indefinitely laid-off hourly employees in open full-time positions as they become available based on seniority,” a Stellantis spokeswoman to the Detroit Free Press on Tuesday.
The Cherokee has had a decrease of about 19% decrease in sales since 2018 when the Jeep brand launched an updated mid-cycle action (MCA) on the Jeep Cherokee (KL) platform. The styling refresh brought forth a 17.4% increase in 2018 over the following year.
The Cherokee is the Belvidere Assembly Plant’s only product, currently. Production of the Jeep Cherokee (KL) was moved from Toledo, Ohio to the Belvidere plant back in 2017 after a $350 million to retool the Illinois facility in order to manufacture the then-upcoming Jeep Wrangler (JL) on the northern end of the Toledo Assembly Complex.
Many people have questioned why there has not been an additional product added to the Belvidere plant, considering the plant manufactured the Jeep Compass, Jeep Patriot, and Dodge Dart back in 2016. The Belvidere plant is not the only global plant to produce Cherokee models. In a joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC), the Cherokee is produced in Changsha, China. There it is produced alongside the pre-MCA Cherokee dubbed as the “Cherokee Classic”, and the China-exclusive three-row Grand Commander (K8).
The Grand Commander which is offered as a slightly longer three-row variant of the Cherokee platform is more focused as an urban SUV than a “Trail Rated” oriented model. The Grand Commander offers a two-row plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) variant, needed for the growing electric vehicle regulations in the Chinese market due to emissions pollution.
Jeep’s Grand Commander offerings would have been a great addition to the Chrysler lineup in the North American market, as the brand needs a much-needed SUV offering to remain competitive against other automakers.
There has no word on the status of the highly-anticipated Jeep Cherokee Deserthawk, another “Desert-Rated” model for the lineup. The vehicle made its one and only appearance during a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) investor meeting in 2018. Since then, the patent drawings for the Cherokee Deserthawk have been updated to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website, despite no official announcement from the company.
With the sixth-generation Cherokee already in development (codenamed KM), we hope Jeep can bring a product more balanced for the global market despite having the new three-row Jeep (598) appearing in the Brazilian and Indian markets.
Stellantis, then FCA, laid off over 1,300 employees at the Belvidere Assembly Plant back in May of 2019 due to a cutback in global demand for the midsized SUV. Updated United Auto Workers (UAW) contracts in late 2019, stated “fresh models/features off of current (KL) platform”, were coming.