It’s official. Stellantis has informed the United Auto Workers (UAW) that has made the decision to indefinitely idle its Belvidere Assembly Plant in Illinois, at the end of February.
The 5 million-square-foot facility about 70 miles northwest of Chicago, has continued to be the hardest hit Stellantis plant in North America during the semiconductor crisis and currently only manufactures the Jeep® Cherokee (KL) – a slow seller in the current Jeep portfolio.
The facility has been producing the midsized Jeep® Cherokee (KL) as its sole product since June 1st, 2017. Before the Cherokee, the plant produced a trio of small vehicles consisting of the Jeep Patriot (MK74), Jeep Compass (MK49), and Dodge Dart (PF). Since the introduction of the globally-marketed second-generation Compass (MP), sales of the Cherokee have dropped dramatically globally. The plant went from a two-shift operating pattern in 2019 to just one in July 2021.
However, on Friday, the UAW was informed of the decision to idle the facility. Terrible news for those who have stuck it out during the constant on/off production during the pandemic and the semi-conductor crisis, who only have learned they will have jobs just weeks before the Christmas holiday.
Stellantis said in a statement, that it will make efforts to place those indefinitely laid-off employees in open full-time positions, as they become available. There was also the mention that they are seeking other ways to repurpose the plant, but no official details were released.
“Our industry has been adversely affected by a multitude of factors like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the global microchip shortage, but the most impactful challenge is the increasing cost related to the electrification of the automotive market,” commented Stellantis spokeswoman Jodi Tinson.
“We are all deeply angered by Stellantis’ decision to idle the Belvidere Assembly Plant without a plan for future product,” responded UAW Vice President and Director of the Stellantis Department Cindy Estrada. “There are many vehicle platforms imported from other countries that could be built in Belvidere with skill and quality by UAW members at Belvidere. The transition to electrification also creates opportunities for new product. Companies like Stellantis receive billions in government incentives to transition to clean energy. It is an insult to all taxpayers that they are not investing that money back into our communities.”
“We believe Stellantis is grossly misguided in idling this plant which has produced profits for the company since 1965,” adds UAW President Ray Curry. “Not allocating new product to plants like Belvidere is unacceptable. Announcing the closure just a few weeks from the holidays is also a cruel disregard for the contributions of our members from UAW Locals 1268 and 1761. We will fight back against this announcement.”
It hasn’t been a secret that the Belvidere facility has been underutilized for some time.
Over the past several years, there have been multiple rumors of additional products being added to the plant.
Making its debut at the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) 2018 Capital Markets Day presentation, the Cherokee Deserthawk, looked to bring a new “Desert Rated” model to the Cherokee lineup. Despite being teased at the event, no such vehicle ever made it into production.
In 2019, rumors began about a possible Chrysler version of the Chinese-market Jeep Grand Commander (K8). The Chinese-built three-row D-segment SUV was based on the Cherokee platform and easily could have been produced at the Belvidere plant. However, that rumor fizzed out in early 2021.
Another rumor last year had the next-generation Dodge Challenger (LB) and Charger (LF) being produced at the Illinois plant. That created a lot of excitement for the Dodge brand to bring their muscle car production back to the United States. But those rumors came to an end, earlier this year when news about the muscle car duo being moved to the Windsor Assembly Plant in Ontario, Canada made headlines.
Stellantis plans on launching 25 new electrified vehicles in the North American market by 2030.
According to AutoForecast, the upcoming Jeep Recon (EJ), and the yet-to-be-officially-named Wagoneer S, will be built alongside the next-generation Jeep Cherokee (KM) at the Stellantis Toluca Assembly Plant in Mexico. That facility currently produces the Jeep Compass, built its replacement could be produced at the Brampton Assembly Plant near Toronto, as the plant is set to be fully modernized after production of the current Dodge Challenger (LA), Dodge Charger (LD), and Chrysler 300 (LX) end in December 2023. The plant is scheduled to reopen in early 2025.