Fiat Chrysler is betting big on Jeep SUVs. In , the automaker pledged to spend $1 billion overhauling its production facilities in Michigan and Ohio to build the upcoming Jeep Wagoneer, Grand Wagoneer, and Wrangler pickup. The move will add 2000 jobs to the automaker's United States workforce, and will enable the company to move Ram heavy-duty pickup truck production from Mexico to the U.S.
Shown above, the Jeep Wrangler-based Gladiator pickup truck concept from 2005
In the announcement, Jeep pledged to invest $1 billion to retool and modernize two U.S. production facilities: The Warren Truck Assembly Plant in Michigan, slated to produce the upcoming Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, and the Toledo Assembly Complex in Ohio, where the Wrangler pickup will be built.
, the moves are not unexpected—plant upgrades were first rumored when the 2018 Wrangler Pickup and 2019 Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer were confirmed. But FCA's statement on Sunday is the first time the automaker has mentioned plans to bring Ram heavy duty pickup truck production to the U.S. Currently, all heavy-duty Rams are built in Mexico.
Previous reporting indicates that the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer will be built on an extended version of the unibody Grand Cherokee platform, with the ultra-luxurious Grand Wagoneer commanding up to $140,000. Per FCA's announcement on Sunday, the body-on-frame Ram heavy duty pickup will be produced alongside the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant.
The investment will allow FCA to expand the Toledo Assembly Plant, where the body-on-frame Wrangler and unibody Cherokee are currently produced.
The announcement of increased U.S. investment, new jobs, and relocating of heavy duty truck production away from Mexico comes as automakers scramble to react to threats from President-elect Donald Trump to levy an import tax on vehicles produced outside the U.S. Knowledgeable sources that FCA's decision was not related to Mr. Trump's threats against Ford, GM and Toyota. Indeed, FCA's decision to shift more truck and SUV production to U.S. facilities was first signaled back in 2016, before Mr. Trump's recent flood of threats against automakers importing U.S. market cars from Mexico.
"The conversion of our industrial footprint completes this stage of our transformation as we respond to the shift in consumer tastes to trucks and SUVs, and as we continue to reinforce the U.S. as a global manufacturing hub for those vehicles at the heart of the SUV and truck market," said FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne in a written statement. "These moves, which have been under discussion with Dennis Williams and the rest of the UAW leadership for some time, expand our capacity in these key segments, enabling us to meet growing demand here in the U.S., but more importantly to increase exports of our mid-size and larger vehicles to international markets.
"The expansion of our Jeep lineup has been and continues to be the key pillar of our strategy," Marchionne continued. "Our commitment to internationalize the Jeep brand is unwavering, and with these last moves, we will finally have the capacity to successfully penetrate markets other than the U.S. which have historically been denied product due to capacity constraints."
The production shifts are subject to negotiation and final approval by state and local entities, FCA says.