On Friday, Stellantis announced it would idle its Jeep Cherokee plant in Belvidere, Ill., effective February 28, 2023. The move, which the UAW criticized as “grossly misguided,” will lay off the assembly plant’s entire workforce for an indefinite period of time.
In a statement reported by Automotive News, Stellantis cited several factors for idling the Cherokee assembly plant, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the global microchip shortage, and cost increases related to the electrification of the automotive market.
“Stellantis has taken a number of actions to stabilize production and improve efficiency at its North American facilities to preserve affordability and customer satisfaction in terms of quality,” said the automaker in a statement. “While it considers other avenues to optimize operations, Stellantis has made the decision to idle the Belvidere Assembly plant.”
The UAW quickly condemned the move, noting that the plant has made money for the company since 1965. A statement from UAW President Ray Curry said it was unacceptable not to allocate new products to plants like Belvidere. He also added, “Announcing the closure just a few weeks from the holidays is also a cruel disregard for the contributions of our members from UAW Locals 1268 and 1761. We will fight back against this announcement.”
The Belvidere Assembly Plant’s future has been in doubt for several years as workers have experienced downtime and numerous layoffs. Now, as a result of this decision, the plant’s entire workforce will be indefinitely laid off. As part of the announcement, Stellantis indicated it would make every effort to place the workers in other full-time positions that become available. The company also indicated it is trying to find a way to repurpose the facility.
The announcement follows the remarks made earlier this week by Stellantis’ COO, Mark Stewart when he said the company’s merger was working fine for all brands. Stewart reiterated that the company had no plans to discontinue any of the 14 brands saying, it would give each one ten years to prove its viability and adding, “Everybody’s got a fighting chance.”