Global sales of the Jeep brand are expected to top 1 million units for the first time ever when the numbers are added up by Fiat Chrysler next week. However, the company isn’t resting on its laurels, FCA is charging ahead with ambitious plans for the future.
FCA Chief Sergio Marchionne laid out the goal of 1 million units for Jeep during the Detroit Auto Show at the beginning of 2014. Through November, the brand’s sales are up 44%, which puts it on track to hit the mark.
In fact, the company’s massive plant in Toledo, Ohio, hit an all-time production high this year, surpassing 500,000 vehicles built just a couple of weeks ago. While much of the news from Jeep has been good, the brand has come under some new criticism from Consumer Reports. The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited wound up at the bottom of CR’s New-Car Value ratings.
“Known best for its off-road ability, the hard-riding, ponderous, uncomfortable and unreliable Wrangler has a Value Score of 0.07, and costs $0.77 per mile to operate.”
Joining it at the bottom of the rankings were the Fiat 500L, Mercedes-Benz S500, BMW 750L, and Toyota Tacoma with a V6 engine, according to the magazine, which analyzed its road tests, predicted reliability, and five-year owner-cost data to calculate a value score for more than 200 different vehicles.
Fiat Chrysler also is launching a renovation with the construction of structural steel required to create 20-foot tall enclosure on the roof of the company’s assembly plant in Windsor, Ontario, across the river from Detroit. The enclosure will house the plant’s new skillet line, which moves the vehicle along the line, adjusting its height to the desired level for workers, improving vehicle quality with a better line of sight.
The conveyor enclosure and skillet line are among many improvements planned for the Windsor plant in preparation for production of the next generation minivan. Additional projects will be completed during 14 weeks of downtime beginning in February, Chrysler officials said.
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Currently occupying 4.4 million square feet of floor space, the Windsor Assembly Plant employs 4,600 employees across three shifts to produce the Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country, Ram Cargo Van and Lancia Grand Voyager, which is a right-hand drive van shipped internationally.
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FCA is also investing $266 million in its Kokomo Transmission Plant in Indiana to increase capacity of the fuel-efficient TorqueFlite transmission. This is the sixth investment made at Kokomo Transmission since June 2009, bringing total investment in FCA US Kokomo operations to nearly $1.8 billion. The plant now exports transmissions from the U.S. to FCA plants in other parts of the world, such as a plant in Turkey that build the Ram ProMaster City, which the group is beginning to import into the U.S.
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“Since the launch of the eight-speed, employees at Kokomo Transmission have been working practically round the clock to produce this advanced, fuel-efficient transmission,” said Brad Clark, head of power train manufacturing operations, FCA – North America.
“We are pleased that vehicles equipped with this transmission have been so well received by consumers. This investment will give us the additional capacity we need to make it available across even more vehicles in our product line.