TOLEDO (13abc Action News) - Work is underway at the Toledo Assembly Complex right now to clear out the Cherokee production lines as the plant gears up to build the brand new Wrangler. Our cameras were rolling as the very last Toledo-built Cherokee came down the lines.As you may know, production has been moved to Belvidere, Illinois.
Workers here in Toledo have built nearly one million Cherokees since 2013. The Toledo run came to an end with number 949,151 late Thursday night. We were in the plant as some of the workers had a chance to say goodbye to a vehicle that's been a way of life for thousands of people.
The last Toledo-built Cherokee rolled off the lines just before midnight. Chuck Padden is the Plant Manager of the Toledo Assembly Complex,"It's more than a job, the people here have truly invested themselves into this vehicle, so there are a few emotional people here who have watched it from start to finish."
Many workers stopped to take pictures as they watched it come down the lines. Brittany Terry has been building Cherokees since 2013,"It is bittersweet for me and for all of us. We've been here since the beginning of production for the Cherokee.The vehicle has changed my life for the better in a lot of ways."
The 3,700 workers on the Cherokee lines will be temporarily laid off in the coming months They will then shift to working on the Wrangler.
Some will also eventually work on a Jeep pick up that will also be built here. Brittany says many of them are excited about their next build, "We've been on Cherokee since day one, so now to build the number vehicle in the line-up will be nice. It's refreshing for us Cherokee people. It's an exciting new start for us."
The move of Cherokee production to Illinois will allow for the expansion of Wrangler production,and that eventually means new jobs here in Toledo, "There will be a lot of activity here for years to come. It will keep this workforce very busy, so these are exciting times here in Toledo."
While he won't talk specifics, Padden is impressed with the new Wrangler, "It's absolutely beautiful. It has every feature any Jeep lover would want. It's going to be a legend in it's own right.We are all very excited."
Padden gives the workforce a lot of credit for all the success here in Toledo. He says the men and women focus on more than just building Jeeps,it is truly a way of life and a source of pride, "This workforce has done everything we've asked and we have asked them a lot! We expect a lot from this workforce, we want to make sure we are building it right, every single time and they continue to deliver every single time."
Pre-production of the Cherokee is underway in Belvidere. Full production there will ramp up in the coming weeks. In the meantime, production of the next generation Wrangler here in Toledo is expected in the fourth quarter of this year