Parent Stellantis will close an Illinois plant and may move production to Mexico.
Jeep’s Cherokee utility vehicle may soon see the axe, or its production may relocate from Belvidere, Illinois, to Mexico. Automotive News reported recently that the plant will be closed indefinitely by the end of February 2023, thereby jeopardizing the Cherokee line. The Cherokee is one of several Jeep utility vehicle models; it slots between the larger Grand Cherokee and the compact Compass in the brand’s hierarchy.
Cherokee, Liberty, Cherokee
The Cherokee name was utilized from 1990 to 2001, and again from 2014 to the present. In the interim, Jeep offered the Liberty, a model that also included a Dodge Nitro twin.
Cherokee sales have fallen precipitously over the past few years as the nameplate overlaps its two nearest models. Further, the company has received pushback in recent years from the Native American tribe bearing its name, with the Indian community demanding that Jeep quit using Cherokee for the two models.
Closing the Illinois plant will displace 1,350 workers who work one shift. Although some may relocate to other plants, most will likely be affected by the closure.
Overview of the Belvidere Plant
The Belvidere Assembly Plant was opened by the Chrysler Corporation in 1965. Over the years, it has manufactured a succession of Dodge, Plymouth, Chrysler, and Jeep models. As recently as 2016, both the Jeep Patriot and Compass were manufactured there, before production shifted exclusively to the Jeep Cherokee. Previously, the Cherokee was built in Toledo, Ohio.
Although not mentioned, it seems likely that if Cherokee production shifted to Mexico, then it would be built in Toluca, the same plant that manufactures the Compass.
The Compass and the Cherokee share a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The Cherokee also offers a naturally aspirated 3.2-liter V6. Power routes to the wheels utilizing an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Likely All-Electric Model
But what if Jeep cancels the Cherokee? Is that a possibility? Yes, it is. Besides solving one part of the naming problem, the Cherokee’s absence would eventually be filled by a dedicated electric vehicle model.
In recent years, we’ve seen Jeep gain its first electrified model. More will follow. These plug-in variants of popular nameplates such as the Wrangler are a steppingstone to what will follow – fully electric models designed from the ground up.
This is where the Cherokee replacement may come in. Inspired by the Wrangler, the Jeep Recon is a fully electric midsize utility vehicle with removable doors and a power-folding rooftop. We don’t have the performance numbers yet for this model, which is expected in 2024. Thus, if Jeep does cancel the Cherokee, the slot would remain unoccupied for about a year. Jeep isn’t likely to see a huge drop off in sales in the interim as just over 3,000 copies are sold each month.
Looking Ahead: Jeep Cherokee, et al
The current Jeep line consists of the subcompact Renegade, compact Compass, the two Cherokee models, and a pair of Wagoneers. The Jeep Wrangler SUV and the Jeep Gladiator pickup truck round out the product line. Lastly, the future model expansion includes electrified versions of several of the established models as well as fully electric models such as the Recon.
Stellantis has promised to electrify its entire fleet, but we doubt it will lose its gasoline-powered models for many years. Finally, the road to electrification is not short and consumers must be convinced that the new technology offers a substantial improvement over the familiar.
Martinez, M. (2022, December 9). Stellantis to indefinitely idle Belvidere Assembly Plant. Automotive News [subscription required].
Telford, T. (2021, February 22). Cherokee Nation to Jeep: Stop using the tribe’s name. The Washington Post.
Irwin, Austin. (2022, September 8). 2024 Jeep Recon EV: What We Know So Far. Car & Driver.
Photos copyright Stumpwater Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved.