The final Jeep Liberty rolls off the lines this summer and a lot of work is being done to get the plant ready to make a new Jeep SUV. If you haven't been by the plant in a while you may not even realize that a 300-thousand square foot addition has gone on the front of it. It's enclosed and they are doing concrete work right now. Last week helicopters put air units into place on the roof, but the best news is that the new Toledo built Jeep may create even more jobs than first expected.
The new Jeep SUV that will replace the Liberty means more than one thousand new jobs. Dan Henneman, Jeep Unit Chair for UAW local 12, says the numbers could be going up,"Our numbers may change a little bit. Initially we talked about hiring about 1,100 people and it looks like we may actually need more like 1,400 people. If a lot of people retire, we could grow the numbers even more."
The last Liberty is scheduled to roll off the lines August 16th. The plant will then be idled to get all the new equipment in place,"We'll start in the old body shop taking all the equipment out. The wall between the old and the new parts of the body shop will then be taken down so we can join the two together. We'll try to make the old as nice as the new, and start bringing the new machinery in."
Not long after that, preliminary work on the new Jeep begins,"The plan is for the body shop to start building the very first body for the new Jeep in October or November of this year, so there's a lot of work that needs to be done in a short time."
Specifics about the new Jeep are still under wraps, but the head of Chrysler has called it a game changer, and Henneman agrees, "It's probably one of the nicest Jeeps we've built. It will compete with everything out there. We are really excited about it, but I don't want to let the cat out of the bag, we want to take the world by storm. Everybody should be surprised when they see it."
The bulk of the workforce will be laid off while the plant is re-tooled, but there may be an opportunity for some of them to shift to the Wrangler plant during the shut down, "We want to try to give Wrangler workers a break. They are working 10 hour shifts, six days a week, and they are not getting their usual summer shut down this year, so we have to do something to help those folks. This is a great way to help them get a break and to allow some people from the other plant to work during the lay off."
So here's the timeline. The plant shuts down in August. Some workers will stay on the job during the shut down like skilled tradesmen and launch team members. The first bodies for the new SUV are scheduled to be built this Fall. The bulk of the workers will be back on the job in March or April and the new Jeep will be in showrooms next Spring. Henneman believes the hiring process will begin late summer or early fall.