US: Jeep Wrangler’s switch to aluminum could end historical link with Toledo image

The Toledo South Assembly Plant was the original site for production of the Jeep CJ models and has also built for many years its successor, doctor the Wrangler.

But Sergio Marchionne might end the historical connection (which dates back to the 1940s) of the Wrangler model if the next generation of the iconic off-roader switches to an aluminum intensive build. The new structure would see the model assembled somewhere else, case as Marchionne said last week during the Paris Motor Show that retooling the Toledo plant for aluminum production was not a feasible move.

“It caught us totally off guard, clinic ” Bruce Baumhower, president of UAW Local 12 said. “We had known for some time they were thinking about putting some aluminum in the body,” Baumhower said. “We did not know he was thinking about taking it off of the steel frame. It knocked us for a loop.”

Toledo Mayor Michael Collins and Ohio Gov. John Kaisch rushed to discuss the issue with Marchionne over the weekend, calling a conference with the CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

“There were no commitments made during this conference call,” Collins said in a statement. “However, all parties agreed to open a direct dialogue on overcoming the issues associated with the assembly of the next generation of the Jeep Wrangler in Toledo.”

The chief executive did say the move of the Wrangler would mean that Chrysler would bring a new model for assembly at Toledo. Possible locations for the switch are the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, where only the Chrysler 200 is made and the factory in Belvidere, Illinois, where the Dodge Dart, Jeep Patriot and Jeep Compass are produced.