Report: Fiat Chrysler to Open 'New' Assembly Plant in Detroit

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
report fiat chrysler to open 8216 new assembly plant in detroit

While General Motors is busy “unallocating” some of its plants, Fiat Chrysler is opening a new one. How’s that for optics?

The company will reportedly convert an existing facility, the so-called Mack Avenue Engine II plant, one which began making small V6 engines in the year 2000 but was idled about five years ago. This new vehicle assembly plant is slated to make the three-row Grand Cherokee.

Wait, what?

According to a report in The Detroit News, people familiar with the matter have said the new assembly plant will build a new three-row Jeep Grand Cherokee for model year 2021. This is surprising, since the company has already approved plans to spend six months of next year retooling its Warren Truck Assembly Plant in an effort to prepare for production of a 2021 full-size three-row SUV, the Jeep Wagoneer.

Sketching out this timeline on the back of a napkin, this could mean that Jeep will have a pair of new three-row SUVs for the 2021 model year: a unibody machine to go up against the Explorer et al, plus a bigger brute to take on the Suburban and its ilk. Far-fetched? Maybe. But a guy can dream.

As a whole, it is estimated that FCA is running at greater than 90 percent capacity, compared to GM and Ford’s 72 and 81 percent (respectively) through the end of November. In particular, the FCA plant of Jefferson North is said to be bursting at the seams, humming along at 130 percent capacity cranking out Grand Cherokee and Durango SUVs.

With these capacity numbers, FCA is playing an animated game of musical chairs, shuffling product around in a bid to keep production up, instead of simply idling plants for retooling. Firing up the old Mack Engine II building for a three-row Grand Cherokee would permit FCA the luxury of producing such a machine while retooling Jefferson for the next-gen GC.

Jeep is red hot right now and well on its way to moving a million units annually. Year to date, the brand has sold 892,778 vehicles and found homes for 73,784 rigs in November alone. With the addition of the Gladiator pickup plus a pair of three-row SUVs, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to make up that difference.

Regarding the physical buildings on site, the Mack Avenue Engine Complex currently cranks out an abundance of 3.6-liter Pentastar engines, plus the 3.2L Pentastar that finds a home in the Jeep Cherokee. The “II” part of the complex made the discontinued 3.7-liter V6 and was idled in September 9th, 2012.

Signs look good for that facility to hum once more. An official announcement is expected late next week.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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  • AJ AJ on Dec 08, 2018

    Although my toy is a Jeep TJ, I've always had Honda or Toyota in my garage. I have to say, of the five vehicles that I have my eye on for my next daily driver, three are FCA.

  • Steve203 Steve203 on Dec 09, 2018

    I am looking forward to the official press release from FCA, because I have questions about what has been leaked. From what I have read, Mack II only has 650,000 of space. That isn't much for a final assembly line. They would either have to build a conveyor to bring bodies from the Jefferson North body plant, if it has the extra capacity, or build a new body plant on the site of the old Hudson parts warehouse and axle plant which was cleared a few years ago, with a conveyor over Mack and the railroad tracks. Either way, 400 new jobs doesn't seem anywhere near enough to staff a final assembly line. The Rouge truck final assembly building is 2M sqft and requires 1,000 people per shift. Can't shake the thought that FCA would be happier if it just bought the GM Detroit plant and moved the GC in there. Marchionne had been complaining for years that he couldn't get enough GCs out of Jefferson North. And, in all this discussion of 3 row GCs and 2 row GCs, I have not seen any mention of the Durango. The Durango has been the defacto 3 row GC. will it be discontinued, or will the name move back to the pickup platform? In an interview last June, Marchionne said that 22 was the date for a totally new GC, in both 2 and 3 row versions. Wouldn't take much to bump that up to 21 as Marchionne said the platform development was done last spring. The Jeep timeline calls for 22 to be the debut of a new Renegade, new Cherokee, and a "low D 3 row", which I would interpret as a replacement for Journey, as well as the Wagoneer.

  • Keith Maybe my market's different. but 4.5k whack. Plus mods like his are just donations for the next owner. I'd consider driving it as a fun but practical yet disposable work/airport car if it was priced right. Some VAG's (yep, even Audis) are capable, long lasting reliable cars despite what the haters preach. I can't lie I've done the same as this guy: I had a decently clean 4 Runner V8 with about the same miles- I put it up for sale around the same price as the lower mile examples. I heard crickets chirp until I dropped the price. Folks just don't want NYC cab miles.
  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.