UAW leaders, workers talk about the new Toledo-built Jeep Wrangler

By  | 

TOLEDO, Ohio (13abc Action News) - New information about the next generation Toledo-built Jeep Wrangler. It's been under wraps for a long time, but the world has gotten it's first glimpse of the new model. Fiat Chrysler unveiled several shots of the iconic SUV at an event in Las Vegas.

As we've reported, the Wrangler won't be officially unveiled until the Los Angeles Auto Show later this month. But in the meantime, a lot of people are glad to have at least gotten a quick look of the highly anticipated new model.

Ron Birchfield is a third generation Jeep worker. He's been on the job for 32 years. Ron says the workforce is excited about the newest model, and he's been a part of getting it to market, "I was on the launch team. We had a place inside the plant where we produced the vehicle under lock and key, 24-hours a day."

Of course it's no longer under lock and key. Several pictures were released by Fiat Chrysler Tuesday, "It has a lot of new options it did not have before. We pretty much put our heart and souls into that vehicle. We are very excited about it."

When it comes to the launch, union leaders says the transition from the old to the new has gone well. Bruce Baumhower is the head of UAW Local 12, the union that represents the workers,"We do our launches right. When the first car hits the dealerships we want it to be perfect. We haven't had any major glitches, everything is going smoothly. But it will be awhile before we start building Wranglers for consumers to purchase."

While no one will talk specifics until after it is unveiled, it is clear there are changes to the interior and exterior. Baumhower says there is one change that a lot of people will like,"while there are a lot of nice changes to the design, I think the real difference is under the hood. The are offering so many powertrains. Between the different engines and transmission combinations, there are probably 6-7 different options."

Baumhower says one of the best things about the new model is a lot of new jobs, "We've hired about 600-700 brand new full time workers and 300-400 more temporary workers at the plant . Suppliers have also done a lot of hiring. Dana has hired about 300 for its new plant, and DMS has hired a couple hundred too. All in, there are about 1,000 new jobs for the community."

More than 75 years after it was first made here in our city, the world will certainly be watching to see what Toledo will be building next, and Ron Birchfield can't wait, "It will certainly be a good day for Toledo when it's unveiled. No, I don't think it will be a good day for Toledo, I think it will be a great day for Toledo when it's unveiled."

Here's a time line for the new Wrangler. Workers are building evaluation or test models right now. Full production is expected to start by the end of the year, and the Wranglers will be on dealer lots in the first half of next year. Once again, the official reveal will be in LA the end of this month.

The plant is expected to build about 350,000 Wranglers a year, and about 100,000 Jeep trucks. The Toledo-built pick up model is expected in 2019.