What does this mean for the Toledo, Ohio plant?
Most of the news surrounding Fiat Chrysler these days involves its just-finalized merger with France's PSA Groupe. One of the key reasons why PSA wanted to join forces with FCA was because of its highly profitable Jeep division. Currently, there are 10 Jeep factories worldwide, including five in North America. The overseas facilities mostly build the Renegade and Compass for local markets. However, none of them build the Jeep Wrangler.
Since World War II, the Wrangler and its civilian and military predecessors called Toledo, Ohio home. The Wrangler's massive popularity, however, has forced the automaker to make a big change. The automaker has just announced plans to invest $250 million to expand its presence in India by launching four new vehicles there within two years at a local factory.
The Wrangler will be one of them, along with the Cherokee, an updated Compass, and an unnamed SUV. “Our new investment of $250 million will give us a competitive edge in multiple segments,” said Partha Datta, managing director for FCA India. At present, Jeep only accounts for 1 percent of India’s passenger vehicle market, but the locally-built expansion plan aims to significantly increase that figure.
The plan also aims to increase local sourcing of parts to achieve better economies of scale and reduce overall costs. The added Wrangler factory will take some of the pressure off the Toledo Assembly Complex as well, which also builds the Gladiator.
Last month, Jeep announced it will build a new 250,000 square-foot customization facility not far from the Toledo factory. A 300-person workforce will be dedicated to fitting those vehicles with upgraded equipment from Mopar. Coincidentally, India’s Mahindra recently introduced its latest Wrangler lookalike, the Thar. A four-door version begins at around $17,500, roughly half the price of a Wrangler Unlimited.
It remains to be seen whether Indian off-road fans will opt for the real deal or settle for the Thar. Chances are, it’ll depend largely on price, a fact FCA is very well aware of.