First look inside Toledo Jeep plant as work continues for new Wrangler

Published: Jun. 1, 2017 at 5:24 PM EDT
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The Toledo Assembly Complex is undergoing a major overhaul right now to make way for production of the new Jeep Wrangler. Thursday we got the first look inside the plant as the retooling work hits high gear. It's an around-the-clock job for thousands of workers.

The last Cherokee rolled off the lines in Toledo in early April. Production was shifted to Belvidere, Illinois.Within minutes of the final Toledo-built Cherokee, crews began clearing out the plant, and within hours heavy demolition was underway. There are more than 2,000 workers helping make this happen.

This was what the inside of this plant looked like less than two months ago, and this is what it looks like today. Valerie Oehmke is a Corporate Communications Manager for Fiat Chrysler,"It's incredible to see the transformation that has taken place. "

It's taken a lot of work to get to this point. Hundreds of thousands of work hours have been logged, and so far, things are right on schedule. Chuck Padden is the manager of the Toledo Assembly Complex,"With such a short time frame, it's an hour by hour schedule for development and execution. We have a truly great team. We have wonderful engineers deigning the vehicle and we have great people here in the plant as well. it is satisfying to watch it all come together. We know there is a lot of work ahead, but we are ready to continue taking on the challenge"

The retooling is being done by contractors and Jeep skilled trades workers. Oehmke says in the body shop alone, workers have logged over 245,000 hours,"We have workers here around-the-clock working in a number of different sections of the plant to make sure everybody is meeting deadlines."

The Fiat Chrysler investment in the workforce, the plant and the city is significant. FCA has pumped more than $700 million into just the assembly section. That's the part of the plant we toured today.

Padden gave us a few examples of the scope of this job, "In the assembly area we've had 920 truck loads of scrap removed. More than 717,000 pounds of steel has been installed in the complex to support the new assembly line. In the body shop we have poured 130 yards of concrete. In the paint shop we have 40 new sealing robots, that's two times more than we had for Cherokee production. Right now we're standing in one small part of the plant, and as big as this assembly space is there's this kind of work going on all over this facility. It's all happening 24 hours a day. "

While work continues to get the new production lines ready, Padden says work on the next generation Wrangler is well underway too, "Engineering technicians are turning the robots on and setting the programs up. Engineers from Auburn Hills are also building pilots in a special facility. There's a lot of activity. While all that is happening, we continue to build the current Wrangler in our south building.We crank out more than 800 of those every day of the week."

And what about the new Wrangler? There is plenty of speculation,but Padden says no specifics just yet, "The vehicle is absolutely beautiful. The customer will be thrilled when they see it."

Production of the new Wrangler will begin here in Toledo by the end of the year. It's expected in showrooms early next year. Padden says it's one of the best ever,"This is going to be the biggest thing to roll out off the Toledo lines since the first Wrangler back in 1941, and we're all thrilled to have a hand in it!"