By on December 6, 2018

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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32 Comments on “Report: Fiat Chrysler to Open ‘New’ Assembly Plant in Detroit...”


  • avatar
    TwoBelugas

    Sergio “the Sweater” must be sitting pretty smug up there wherever he is.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Yeah, especially a couple of sites that have spent years hammering him at every possible chance. Wonder how this will be reported. Or, for that matter, IF it will be reported.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    “Far-fetched?”

    Hardly, just 5 years overdue

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    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.

    Remember when that was Oldsmobile level of volume?

    Motors Liquidation Company remembers.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Congratulations to FCA and Detroit!

    When I first heard about this, I thought that possibly FCA bought Hamtramck back from GM… LOL…

    As time passes, the more I have to eat my words concerning Sergio. Ugh.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      This is really good news for both Detroit AND the American economy. But there are rumblings about both the Grand Cherokee and Durango body styling getting long in the tooth.

      Since my grand daughter and her husband still drive their 2012 GC and 2012 GC SRT8 daily, keeping this body styling this long is kind of comforting, and does increase trade-in value. And that may happen sooner rather than later.

      The plastics of both of their GCs are showing their age with things like brittle windshield-washer nozzles breaking off, or sun-visor mount cover-plates falling off. A multitude of nit-noy stuff that aggravates an owner.

      Maybe the heat in Phoenix, AZ makes cars age prematurely.

      • 0 avatar
        Roberto Esponja

        Arizona is used by automakers for extreme temperature trial testing, so yes, its climate fluctuations can be quite extreme.

        • 0 avatar
          geozinger

          Roberto, I think the perspective you’re missing on HDCs comment here is that he doesn’t like to admit US manufacturers can make a good product, even if only occasionally since the 1970’s…

          You’d have to search the archives for his other comments about how wonderful his Toyota products have been, while generally condemning product from US producers.

          I’ll give him credit for buying the Jeep, although his spouse may have had influence in that purchase, I don’t recall. Regardless, any positive comment about the Jeep(s) can only be followed about a “nit-noy” immediately after.

          The 30 year old Camry is Deus Ex Machina, however. HDC, whatever you do with that Camry, never allow a drink to overflow while it’s in the center console cupholders…

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            geozinger, I commend you on your accuracy of my views of the global auto industry. But you left out the part that I never bought a new Toyota product until 2008 with the purchase of my wife’s Highlander, made in Japan….. And became a convert.

            Until then all I drove and bought was Detroit.

            I don’t want to ever go back there again.

            It evokes too many negative memories of automotive rolling junk.

            And at age 72 I’m too old to tool and wrench on my vehicles or to slither around on the driveway concrete doing what needs to be done to keep them running.

            If I ever need to buy another vehicle, it’ll be another Toyota product.

          • 0 avatar
            geozinger

            HDC, I was trying to keep my response to Roberto on the brief side. Your experience sounds similar to my late father in law’s, except he found Toyota in the mid 80’s. He looooved them, until he didn’t. That was about 15 or so years.

            Like you, he extolled the virtues of Toyota, tried to convert everyone to buy one. Until that 1998 Camry came along. He never told me what turned him off, I personally think he was embarrassed to tell me, after proselytizing ad nauseam for years… But he never bought another ‘Yota again. Crown Vics until he died.

            No worries, though. It’s a semi-free country and we’re mostly entitled to our opinions. I’ve never seen the value of the Toyota tax, I probably never will.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            geozinger, your FIL’s experience sounds very similar to that of my best friend, the guy I bought the 1989 Camry from.

            He feels much the same way, but like me, he also believes that when they started making them here in the US, using the same suppliers as Ford and GM, they were also experiencing the same quality/longevity issues.

            I don’t care what people choose to buy or drive and I speak only for myself and what has worked for me. I’m not selling anything and Toyota isn’t paying me to say nice things about them.

            But with four kids of my own, and five nephews and nieces growing up in my house during the 80’s and 90’s, plus living 26 miles south of the nearest town, we owned a lot of cars. A lot of cars!

            Back then I was younger and M&R (maintenance & repair) was something I could do on my own. And I had to do a lot of it on Detroit iron, just like others who bought & drove them.

            But today it is different. My whole world is different. We got rid of all our vehicles except for that ‘89 Camry because we spend a lot of time away from home.

            And if we need something for round trips, we rent. If we need something to haul or tow, we borrow or rent ($19.95/day at Home Depot for a 1-ton pickup truck with Hitch).

            I honestly have no idea what I would buy today if I had to buy a new vehicle. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, but for me, it’s a no-brainer.

            The brand will be Toyota because of my great ownership experiences.

  • avatar
    SC5door

    Warren Truck is also being re-tooled to bring the Ram 2500 and 3500 models back to Michigan.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Thank you, President Trump!

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        GM’s closing 5 plants and you’re thanking Trump for opening one and refurbishing another?

        That’s a total of negative 3.5, assuming you think Trump is running the auto industry.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          He’s got one hell of an impact on it. Give it time. I prefer the policies of Trump over the policies of the last guy.

          Trump has had one hell of a positive impact on me and millions of other Americans, and some will fall by the wayside just like with the last guy.

          But it is great to be on the winning side now instead of the whining side.

          • 0 avatar
            Peter Gazis

            Highdesertcat

            Does that mean you will be buying a new American made, American designed vehicle anytime soon?

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            I don’t know if I’ll buy a new American made, American designed vehicle any time, either sooner or later.

            We just got rid of all the vehciles we had, except for my bought-used 1989 Camry V6.

            We spend too much time out of the US of A and/or away from home and we have limo service and/or rental cars through the concierge where we’re staying. No sense in keeping a new car parked in the sun at home while we are away.

  • avatar
    NoID

    If FCA really wanted to stick it to GM, they could buy some property in Flint for a new plant should the need arise in the future.

    Flint is actually in a great spot for production of goods, since it sits at the intersection of I-69 and I-75 and has plenty of rail infrastructure as well. I’m surprised other manufacturing didn’t move in as GM moved out.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Good news, now maybe if Ford can better utilize their facilities with VAG production Ford won’t have to cut workers. Wouldn’t that be a nice Christmas gift in a manner of speaking?

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I want to like Jeep, but having rented a Compass for a week and 1000 miles last summer, I can tell you it was subpar in terms of drivability and overall quality.

    My review:

    http://www.curbsideclassic.com/uncategorized/cc-rental-review-2018-jeep-compass-trail-hawk-did-sergio-save-chrysler/

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      judging Jeep based on the Compass is akin to judging Toyota based on the Yaris considering the transaction price of a a fleet spec Compass is far cheaper than a base trim Yaris.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      R Henry, that’s not how your article reads. TwoBelugas also makes a valid point.

      • 0 avatar
        iNeon

        I love my Jeep Compass Calais 4×4 6-speed manual!

        Steers with one finger!

        If it only lost 2 doors.

        She’s orange, so pretty close to the mythical enthusiast’s stickshift 4×4 brown wagon :)

        #PSL

        • 0 avatar

          iNeon, is that the new-generation Compass? How is the handling? I plan on keeping my beloved orange turbo 6-speed Renegade as long as possible, but as it nears 100K on the odo, my thoughts inevitably start to turn to what’s next. Until recently the answer was simple: another Renegade. But with the discontinuation of the manual for 2019, that’s out the window. One of my favorite things about the Rene is that short-wheelbase, variable-damper Koni handling. I’m wondering if the slightly larger Compass stacks up in that department.

          • 0 avatar
            iNeon

            Cls- It is indeed. A 2018 sport 4×4 with the manual/2.4/4×4

            Handling is great. The car is super easy to drive, gets over 25mpg on cat pee and came with A/C and cruise control for less cash than the Renegade with the finiky 1.4t(I had the 1.4t in my old Dart and liked it OK, but this 2.4 is much smoother) and manual/4×4 configuration.

            She’s orange with the black grill and tan seats. Super cute, too.

            People that complain about Compass interior trims are comparing it to cars costing entirely too much. It’s super plush for its segment- and beautifully styled.

            Crap build quality, though. Toluca built me a better PT Cruiser. I expected better out of them.

  • avatar
    jfk-usaf

    I have wanted to like Jeep (and American cars in general) but I can’t get over the cheap parts and poor build quality. Not to mention the safety issues. If you watch your local news regularly keep your eyes on the vehicle accident coverage. I swear that literally 8 out of every 10 accidents that make the news up here have a Jeep involved. Usually a GC. Not making this up.

  • avatar
    AJ

    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.

  • avatar
    Steve203

    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.


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