TOLEDO (13abc Action News) - As we wait for the new Toledo-built Jeep Wrangler to be unveiled, we can give you a glimpse at one of the parts that helps make the vehicle so unique. As Fiat Chrysler gets closer to debuting the 2018 Wrangler, a plant that's a big part of the new Jeep is marking a major milestone.
Dana held the grand opening for its Toledo Driveline Facility today.
Hundreds of workers at the $75 million plant are building the axles for the new Wrangler.
Within the next few years, Dana will be making about one million axles in Toledo annually, and not just for the Jeep Wrangler. Workers will also be building axles for other automakers, and that means more jobs down the road.
The Dana and Jeep partnership dates all the way back to the beginning of the Jeep brand. Dana leaders say it's one of,if not the longest continually running partnerships, between an automaker and supplier. The new plant is on the site where it all began.
Jason Johnson is the Plant Manager,"It's a fascinating journey. If you sit back and think about where we started with Jeep in 1941 to where we are now and all the technology of today, It's a truly amazing story."
Jeep is just the start. This plant will soon be doing work for at least one other automaker, "We will be in launch mode for the next few years. As soon as this product for Jeep is launched we will get ready for the next product launch in 2018. We then have another launch in 2019 and one 2020, so we will be very busy."
All that new work means hundreds of new jobs. Bob Pyle is the President of the Light Vehicle Driveline Technologies Division for Dana, "We're excited to grow the facility. We have about 200 employees today, and over the next few years we will grow to about 350 workers as we supply multiple partners."
Johnson says after months of testing and prototypes, workers are now building the axle that is going into the new Jeep, "We're in full production now. We started that on Monday. Hopefully we will put on the second shift of workers in December or even late November. It all depends on the ramp up."
Pyle and other Dana executives won't talk specifics, but we did get a few hints about the new axles, "The kinds of things automakers around the world are focused on are lightweighting and better fuel efficiency, so all of our efforts are focused on that. There will be all kinds of things to talk about once the new Wrangler launches, and we're excited for that to happen."
Workers are excited to be part of building one of the most recognizable vehicles on and off the road. Jay Yockey is a team leader at the plant, "A couple weeks ago I got to drive one of the Jeeps, and it was really interesting to see what our axles can do. I am very proud to be part of the team building the axles."
This isn't the end of growth at the Overland Industrial Park. The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority owns the Dana building and the property. Paul Toth is the President of the Port Authority,"This is the culmination of a lot of hard work that started in 2010 when we bought the property. We had to convince some people that this was the right thing to do. Ed Harmon helped us redevelop the property, and his vision was vital to the project. The end result far exceeds any of the expectations we had when we first started this venture."
Toth says there will be more groundbreakings on the property in the future, "We anticipate we will be building more facilities here in the next six months. Will they be tied to the auto industry? Not necessarily."