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With Land Deals Wrapped Up, Fiat Chrysler Moves Ahead With Jeep Product Bonanza

Image: FCA

Wrangling between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the city of Detroit, and a prolific landowner reached an end on Friday, with all three parties signing deals designed to bring more Jeeps to the city.

As part of a $4.5 plant investment strategy announced in February, FCA wants to convert its Mack Avenue Engine Complex into an automobile assembly plant, earmarked for the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee and a second, larger model. The adjacent Jefferson North plant, which currently builds Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos, won’t see its product roster change, though it will see cash for expansion and interior upgrades.

Once unionized FCA workers get first crack at the 4,950 jobs, remaining positions will go to Detroit residents.

While FCA stated in February that it hoped to start construction on the Mack Avenue facility in the second quarter of this year, the project hinged on acquiring 215 acres of land — including 82.2 acres held by a Moroun-owned company.

From the Detroit News:

The most complicated piece of the deal involved acquiring 82.2 acres of land from Moroun-owned Crown Enterprises Inc. The city struck a deal with the Morouns to pay $43.5 million and swap 117 acres of land in return for the parcel at 12141 Charlevoix St. The Moroun property was by far the most expensive, as the city acquired the other 132 acres for $4.6 million.

The 117 acres included in the land swap is scattered throughout the city in about 10 different locations, Mayor Mike Duggan said, but did not immediately provide details. Most of the parcels were pieces of land adjacent to Moroun-owned properties.

As of Friday, 208 of the 2015 acres were in FCA’s hands, though Duggan said the remaining seven acres (owned by rail company Conrail) is expected to change hands “shortly.”

For its part, FCA agreed pony up $35 million to fund a raft of community benefits, the Detroit Free Press reports, including “$19 million for workforce training and education, with millions more to build a buffer wall around the new plant and to demolish or renovate homes in the area.”

 

Late CEO Sergio Marchionne saw the Jeep brand as FCA’s golden ticket, and that outlook haven’t changed under successor Mike Manley. Once FCA moves Pentastar engine production out of Mack Avenue, work begins to ready the facility for next-generation Grand Cherokee production. Joining the revamped model is “an all-new three-row full-size Jeep SUV and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models,” the automaker claims.

It’s assumed this new Jeep is an extended version of the new Grand Cherokee; at the very least, it borrows the model’s platform and numerous other components, but not its name. We’ll see production start on this model first, with the new entry appearing by the end of 2020. Assembly begins on the next-gen Grand Cherokee in the first half of 2021.

Elsewhere in Michigan, FCA has announced the necessary cash to bring the long-promised Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer to fruition. The automaker bumped its previous commitment to Warren Truck to $1.5 billion in February, ensuring that the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, plus their hybrid variants, will see production in early 2021.

With two body-on-frame Jeeps now muscling into Warren, production of the Ram Heavy Duty line, initially planned for that facility, pulled a U-turn and headed back to Mexico.

[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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