After five years under the Chrysler Group’s direction, Jeep will be ending production of the Liberty compact SUV on August 16. The Liberty originally began production back in 2001 as a 2002 model when DaimlerChrysler was running the show. By the end of last year, Jeep had mustered almost 1.8 million Liberty units sold in the U.S.
The Toledo North facility, where the Liberty, Wrangler, and Wrangler Limited are assembled, will close its doors for several months and begin the retooling process for a successor. While no date for retooling has been announced yet, 1,700 employees will be laid off “for several months”. In total, Chrysler will pour $1.7 billion to develop the unnamed Liberty successor which will be based off the all-new 2013 Dodge Dart platform. Zach Leroux, Toledo North facility manger, told The Detroit News that the new model is already set to begin shipping during the second quarter of next year.
As part of the $1.7 billion used to shape the next model to take the Liberty’s spot in Jeep’s portfolio, $500 million will go towards expanding Toledo North’s body shop along with the installation of a metrology, or measurement, center. This center will be tasked with taking vehicle measurements and seeks a better fit and finish. Though current employees will be laid off, another 1,100 people will be added once production of the Liberty successor begins raising the facility’s roster to 2,800 people.
This unnamed successor to the Liberty will be an important model for Chrysler boss, Sergio Marchionne, as he continues to turn the Detroit-based automaker around. Previously, the Dart had received that accolade upon its official introduction back at the 2012 North American International Auto Show. The new model will kick off a slew of new or refreshed vehicles to come from brands like Jeep and Ram.
Besides the new Jeep model, an updated Grand Cherokee will go on sale early next year and a refreshed Ram heavy-duty truck will also be rolled out later on in the year. Chrysler hopes to continue its current momentum as year-to-date sales are 28 percent ahead of where it was at the same time last year. At the end of July, Chrysler Group had sold 960,157 units.
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Source: The Detroit News