By on January 10, 2020

While Jeep may be a big money maker for Fiat Chrysler, the rugged off-road brand’s products aren’t all doing fabulously. A downturn in consumer enthusiasm has left the automaker with too many Cherokees in its inventory, so something has to give.

Belvidere Assembly goes dark for two weeks this month.

As reported by Automotive News, the temporary shutdown begins on Monday, with the Illinois plant coming back online January 27th. The publication claims FCA began the year with a 97-day supply of Cherokees, up from a 91-day supply a month earlier. Time to pair production with (reduced) demand.

Normal inventory for a car model is around 60 to 70 day’s worth, though this year has seen the industry average climb higher.

FCA’s aging Belvidere facility, which once cranked out such nameplates as the Dodge Omni and Dynasty, builds its sole model on two shifts. Unfortunately for the roughly 4,000 workers at Belvidere, Cherokee sales shifted into reverse in 2019, falling 20 percent for the year. The fourth quarter of 2019 saw the model’s volume fall 30 percent compared to the same period a year earlier.

The current-generation Cherokee, bowing at the tail end of 2017, hit a sales peak in 2018 after suffering two years of declines. Overall, the Jeep brand closed out 2019 with a volume loss of 5 percent.

Looking forward, the Cherokee could see a next-generation model arrive sometime in 2021.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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19 Comments on “Sales Dip Idles Jeep Cherokee Plant...”

  • avatar

    When I shopped for an AWD the Cherokee came up and it was really cheap. Unfortunately I didn’t notice that it was the 2WD model and I had to fend off the local dealer for a couple of weeks.

  • avatar

    I’m thinking in addition to the general market decline, the compass is close enough but cheaper for a lot of buyers. The next gen Cherokee really needs a bigger back seat and behind the seat areas to differentiate it.

  • avatar

    Isn’t this a fairly recent redesign?

  • avatar

    No, it’s a refresh. This gen Cherokee came out in 2014.

  • avatar

    Belvidere has been having some tough sledding. The 3rd shift was eliminated last year. Sticks in my mind it had some extra downtime last fall too.

    The Steve Plan saw this coming some time ago, and advocated replacing the current Cherokee with the Chinese market Commander (2 row) and Grand Commander (3 row) Fresh exterior sheetmetal and an upgraded interior, on the same platform, with a 3 row version to replace the Journey. Mike Manley still can’t seem to find my phone number however.

    Thing is, with the merger expected to take a year to close, and with Manley being pushed aside as Tavares takes over, seems that FCA is going to be pretty much paralyzed for a while.

    • 0 avatar

      Even AFTER the merger, the FCA operations in the US will be paralyzed, while Tavares clears out the former Fiat Italian executives who can’t decide anything until the last minute. Tavares is a cost-cutter like Ghosn, and the cost of Fiat-style decision making is huge.

      • 0 avatar

        “Even AFTER the merger, the FCA operations in the US will be paralyzed, while Tavares clears out the former Fiat Italian executives who can’t decide anything until the last minute.”

        Then they should be doubly interested in implementing the Steve Plan. It’s already worked out. Just needs Manley’s signoff before he heads out the door.

  • avatar

    Lotta UAW folks having a nice two week break to head to Florida. Unfortunately they had to come back up north after their two week holiday break. Too bad they couldn’t have made these back to back.

  • avatar

    Considering how little the Cherokee has changed in the last several years and how much like it the new Compass looks, I’m not at all surprised. In fact, with the possible exception of the Compass and the Wrangler, pretty much the entire lineup of Jeep’s CUVs are due for a stylistic refresh that would be more Jeep-like than generic.

  • avatar

    maybe they could slow the line and build them better – JEEP quality has been declining for years and this should have been an opportunity to make them better

    • 0 avatar

      @thornmark: I believe you can blame Daimler for at least part of that, as Daimler sold off Chrysler’s electronics division to Siemens. The vast majority of Jeep/Chrysler issues since then have been electronic.

      • 0 avatar

        @Vulpine “The vast majority of Jeep/Chrysler issues since then have been electronic.”

        Chrysler has a history of electrical problems going back at least to the 60s. Remember the ballast resistor issues? Didn’t hear about that one from Ford or GM, but experienced Mopar owners kept a spare resister in the glove box. In my dad’s 69 Fury, the gas and temp gauges would swing back and forth in unison. Periodically, the Fury’s battery would go dead without any warning.

        Of course, Fiat has it’s own tradition of crappy Marelli electrics.

    • 0 avatar

      Really? What are you driving that’s giving you so much trouble? You must’ve driven a lot of Jeeps to notice a “decline”. I’ve had a ’00 and ’05 GCs, an ’07 Commander, ’08, ’12, and ’16 wranglers and now a ’19 Cherokee Limited V6. I’ve had a window leak in the Commander that clearly was a build error. Other than that? 1 battery that died under warranty. I can’t say quality is an issue in the past 10 years. The Cherokee has been great. The interior is world class, and the 3.2 V6 runs the freeway at 28-30 mpg.

  • avatar

    Great news! The slowdown should give them some time to get all 9 gears working on their automatic transmission.

  • avatar

    “TMMK specializes in hybrids and currently produces the Toyota Camry, Toyota Avalon, Lexus ES 350, and each of those models’ hybrid variants. It’s Toyota’s largest manufacturing plant, costing over $7 billion thus far and hosting over 8,000 employees.”

    Matt, is it the largest in the world (larger than Toyota City in Japan), or just the largest in North America, or the US?

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