DETROIT, Michigan: Automaker Stellantis NV, which owns Jeep, has opened a new $1.6 billion assembly plant in Detroit for building a revamped version of its popular Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs.
The 3 million square foot Mack Avenue complex, the first assembly plant to be built in the Motor City since 1991, is expected to generate nearly 5,000 jobs, Reuters reported.
Since production began in March amid the coronavirus pandemic, the new plant has hired 2,100 Detroit-area residents, the automaker said.
Currently, the plant is operating three shifts per day and, despite a global shortage of semiconductor chips, it has faced no problems obtaining enough semiconductors for the new Grand Cherokee L models, plant manager Michael Brieda said.
Stellantis, which has idled assembly lines for other vehicles amid the chip shortage, is banking on the new seven-seater Cherokee to take on Ford Motor's Explorer, General Motors' GMC Acadia, and larger European and Japanese SUVs.
Older Grand Cherokee models can only seat five passengers.
Although the new model has three rows of seats, it is in the same weight class as five-passenger SUVs, said Mario Holmes, who oversaw the development of the Grand Cherokee L.
Much effort went into designing a new, more efficient body using aluminum and high-strength steel to lower the SUV's weight, he added.
Eventually, Stellantis plans to churn out 500,000 or more Grand Cherokee models per year in the Mack assembly complex.
It is also planning to build models with electric powertrains at the assembly complex, said Holmes.
Until now, the company's Jefferson North Jeep plant, which was built in 1991, was the Motor City's newest assembly plant.