The Toledo North Assembly Plant has undergone some major renovations at a price tag of $500 million, all to accommodate the new Jeep Cherokee, which began production in June.
Chrysler made multiple changes to improve its facility in preparation of building the 2014 Cherokees. Upgrades include expanding the art body shop by 266,000 square feet and adding state-of-the-art features.
"The body shop is the newest shop, in the sense that 99 percent of the body shop is brand new for the launch of the Jeep Cherokee," said Plant Manager Zach Leroux.
Also brand new is a 25,000 square foot metrology lab, where 10 engineers and 19 skilled trades workers evaluate all aspects of vehicle production to troubleshoot.
"We can analyze all the inputs for the vehicle, as well as all of the assembly process through here proactively, to make sure problems are resolved before they actually get into the vehicle," explained TAC Metrology Manager Jim Cole.
Additionally, the assembly line was also transformed and reconfigured to accommodate the new architecture.
In August, the new 1,100 workers will return to build the new Jeep, bringing Chrysler's workforce at Toledo Assembly to more than 2,900. They are expected to build more than 900 vehicles daily to be sold in 150 countries worldwide. Around 73 percent of the parts for the Cherokee come from within a 200-mile radius of the plant.
"We're meeting our launch curve. All of the day shift is now back to work. The afternoon shift - we have all of our skilled trades people on board, mechanics on board and team leaders, because of the training that's involved for those specific roles, they're back. Just this week we started bringing the first wave of the afternoon shift," said Leroux.
According to Leroux, the assembly line and paint shop have both been overhauled and the 2014 Cherokee will be built with new manufacturing processes.
"We have a new assembly process, new employees all being trained on their product, learning together in a process we established over the last eight months while we've been down," said Leroux.
Expect to see the four different models of the 2014 Cherokee on dealer lots beginning next month.