Italian-American automaker Fiat Chrysler will add three new Jeeps to its lineup including a pickup truck as it invests $1 billion in two factories in the US, in an attempt to further its effort to increase production of hot-selling SUVs and pickup trucks, and get out of producing small and midsize cars. The expansion will create some 2,000 new jobs. On Sunday, the company said it will modernize a factory in the Detroit suburb of Warren, Michigan, to make the new Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer large SUVs.
A factory complex just south of there in Toledo, Ohio, will also get new equipment to make the new pickup. No further details of the new products were given, but said the factory work would be done in the year 2020.
In 2016, FCA announced plans to stop production of the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200, which have been experiencing slow sales. Factories that make those products in Sterling Heights, Michigan, and Belvidere, Ill., will get new trucks and SUVs as FCA searches for an automaker that would build small cars under contract.
The factory upgrade in Warren also would allow the plant to make heavy-duty Ram pickups that now are produced in Saltillo, Mexico. But FCA would not say if it has plans to shift production to the north.
Since Donald Trump’s election as president, producing vehicles in Mexico and shipping them to the US has become a thorny political issue– Trump has publicly criticized Ford, General Motors and Toyota for building small cars in Mexico and shipping them across the border, and has threatened to impose a big border tax on them.
The investment in the factories will expand FCA’s capacity to build vehicles in key segments “enabling us to meet growing demand here in the US, but more importantly to increase exports of our mid-size and larger vehicles to international markets,” CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement. “Those markets have historically been denied product due to (factory) capacity constraints,” he added.
The new Jeep pickup, which could be a version of the Wrangler SUV, would be the company’s first pickup since the mid-1990s.
Consumers worldwide have gravitated toward pickup trucks and SUVs, while turning away from passenger cars. Last year in the United States, car sales fell 7 percent while truck and SUV sales rose 8 percent.