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Next Durango to ride on JGC unibody

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Detroit plant wins Chrysler's new SUVs
Jefferson assembly retooled for task
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BY TIM HIGGINS | Link to Original Article @ Detroit Free Press


Early preparation has begun to retool Chrysler's Jefferson North Assembly Plant so the Detroit facility can be ready to launch the company's next generation of midsized SUVs as soon as late 2009, the Free Press has learned.

The successors to the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango will be assembled at the Jefferson North plant in Detroit, people familiar with the situation said.

The current Grand Cherokee is already assembled at Jefferson North, along with the Jeep Commander, which industry analysts said they believe will be phased out by the summer of 2009, if not earlier.

The Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango SUVs are currently assembled at the Newark, Del., assembly plant that will be shuttered by 2009 as part of the automaker's Feb. 14 turnaround plan.

Roger Benvenuti, a spokesman for Chrysler, declined to comment Friday.

The Free Press reported in early February that Chrysler's Jefferson plant could benefit from a major reinvestment if the Delaware plant closed and Durango production was reassigned.

Several analysts said it would be part of the Feb. 14 turnaround plan. But such a development was absent that day.

Instead, the day's news was dominated by the indication that DaimlerChrysler AG would sell the Chrysler Group.

Global Insight analyst Catherine Madden said she expects the new SUVs to launch in late 2009 at Jefferson North.

"It's going to be a pretty massive overhaul," Madden said of the plant. "They're real projects from everything we can tell. ... It is our expectation that they will be built at Jefferson North."

Such a project would mean a significant investment -- several hundreds of millions of dollars -- in the facility, Madden said, "which certainly gives the plant a stronger, brighter" future.

"Just some basic tooling stuff can be a hundred million," she noted.

By getting rid of the Commander, Chrysler would be freeing up space at Jefferson North for another vehicle.

The Free Press reported earlier this year that the company had issued bidding information to suppliers for a new Dodge crossover vehicle that would be built at Jefferson North and was believed to be the replacement for the current Durango.

Erich Merkle, director of forecasting for IRN Inc., said the next generation Durango and Grand Cherokee will share a platform that would probably be used for the replacement for the Chrysler Pacifica, which is assembled in Windsor.

"It might not be called the Pacifica, but there will be some sort of Chrysler variant in there," Merkle added.

"Whenever you have this change in the industry," he said, referring to Chrysler's turnaround plan, "there are always some plants that benefit from that, and then there are others that will lose."

Jefferson North, built in 1991, began production of the Grand Cherokee in January 1992. The plant, which currently employs about 2,400 people, is located within one of Detroit's poorest neighborhoods.

The Grand Cherokee is one of three supremely important vehicles in the Chrysler Group lineup, along with the minivans and the Dodge Ram. In 1999, during the heady days of the SUV business, the Chrysler facility underwent a $750-million expansion so the company could boost production of the Grand Cherokee.

Times have changed, though, and Chrysler has been hard hit by high gasoline prices and consumers' interest in more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Chrysler lost $680 million last year and about $2 billion in the first quarter of this year, a figure largely attributed to the cost of the turnaround plan.

A key measure of the plan includes eliminating 13,000 jobs over three years and closing the Delaware plant.

Beyond cutting costs, the company wants to re-create itself with more fuel-efficient engines and has announced plans to spend $3 billion on developing power trains that get better gas mileage.

Next year, the company plans to sell Aspen and Durango SUVs with hybrid engines.

All of those plans, however, were largely overshadowed by the indication that Chrysler would be sold.

In May, it was announced that private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management would acquire 80.1% of Chrysler in a deal that is expected to be completed as early as next month.

Even with that announcement, Chrysler has moved forward with planned investments, including $730 million to build an engine plant in Trenton and $700 million to build an axle plant in Marysville.
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More for Michigan, I like that. Chrysler's been in the news a lot more than either GM or Ford as far as building/retooling plants in Michigan goes...and in some ways that makes me respect their company more.

Edited by AxelTheRed
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More for Michigan, I like that. Chrysler's been in the news a lot more than either GM or Ford as far as building/retooling plants in Michigan goes...and in some ways that makes me respect their company more.

So... Michigan workers are better than New Jersey workers?
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More for Michigan, I like that. Chrysler's been in the news a lot more than either GM or Ford as far as building/retooling plants in Michigan goes...and in some ways that makes me respect their company more.

Really? I personally would never buy a vehicle made in Michigan. Every GM vehicle that I have bought that was produced in Michigan has had problems of one kind or another. Therefore when I look for GM vehicles to buy I only look at vehicles produced outside of Michigan, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Here is my simplified process.

1. Do I like the vehicle, Yes, No? (If yes, go to number 2.)

2. Is the vehicle built in Michigan? (If no go to number 3., If yes select another vehicle.)

3. Buy vehicle!

Edited by Pontiac Custom-S
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So... Michigan workers are better than New Jersey workers?

Nope, I just like seeing the Detroit automakers invest in Michigan as opposed to leaving it.

Edited by AxelTheRed
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Really? I personally would never buy a vehicle made in Michigan. Every GM vehicle that I have bought that was produced in Michigan has had problems of one kind or another. Therefore when I look for GM vehicles to buy I only look at vehicles produced outside of Michigan, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Here is my simplified process.

1. Do I like the vehicle, Yes, No? (If yes, go to number 2.)

2. Is the vehicle built in Michigan? (If no go to number 3., If yes select another vehicle.)

3. Buy vehicle!

Huh. That's weird. What the hell did you have?

All the Michigan-built vehicles my family, or even anyone we know, have been just as good as those built elsewhere.

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So basically we are going to have a Durango, Grand Cherokee, and a Aspen/Pacifica replacement all on the same platform. Sounds like a GMT-syle approach to me.

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So wait... this is going to be another uni-body platform for Jeep? It better be Trail-Rated!

And also... if Durango moves to this new uni-body platform, where does this put that Caliber-based midsize-crossover that has been spotted testing?

And this marks another departure from BOF trucks in Detroit. Ford was planning to put NG Explorer on a uni-body, right? And GM has Trailblazer dying, or at least moving to Lambda with a different name. After that, GM has NO BOF midsize SUVs.

So that segment altogether is dying. Chrysler is being frugal in eliminating BOFs now, unlike Ford which has Edge, Flex and Explorer looking for the same piece of pie on unibody platforms. And GM which, no matter what people say, has the Lambdas, great vehicles, killing the GMTs.

All in all, GM is going to get the most out of this BOF exodus. Ford will have a thousand uni-body SUVs, killing the real trucks in the line-up. Chrysler will have no REAL SUV left to sell. And GM will emerge as the only place for a REAL SUV in Detroit. Better for GM!

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So wait... this is going to be another uni-body platform for Jeep? It better be Trail-Rated!

FYI, the Grand Cherokee has always ridden a form of unitized body.

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FYI, the Grand Cherokee has always ridden a form of unitized body.

Yes, I assume Gen 4 be still be 'uniframe' (unitized body w/ welded on frame) construction as Gens 1-3.

I'm assuming the Chrysler and Dodge versions will have a longer wheelbase for a 3rd row of seats... I just hope the GC doesn't get any larger..I've always liked it's relatively compact size..

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The Liberty is also unibody. Land Rovers and Mitsubishi's Montero are unibody as well. Unless you're sharing a platform with a pickup (or keeping the basic design of an existing frame) there is no reason why you wouldn't design a new SUV on a unibody architecture.

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The Cherokee has been unibody since '84 (maybe earlier).

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my god! SOMEONE at Chrysler is taking their smart pills.

the aspen and commander were DOA anyways. it's like Daimler approved them, just to screw Chrysler over; like a conjoined twin who keeps stabbing their other half, in an attempt to kill them, not realizing it was screwing over both of them.

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FYI, the Grand Cherokee has always ridden a form of unitized body.

Really? I knew the earlier generations were, but they really made it seem so macho in the last generation, it seemed like a "real truck", ya kno?

I guess GM and Ford have wrapped the public's (or at least my own) mind around the fact that a pickup and a SUV platform HAVE to be shared.

Anyway, what I'm saying is, the pickups, the fullsize vans and Ford's old as hell Panther are the few BOF platforms that won't die or go unibody. And maybe those will start to go away. Who knows?

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At this rate in a decade or two only pickups will have BOF architectire.

Why does every freekin truck have to go unibody?

I hate crossovers & I despise unibody trucks. Granted the "unibody"

of the typical Jeep is at least MUCH beefier than the "nuibody" of a

typical Japanese SUV or crossover.

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I'm glad Jeep is sticking with it's proven uniframe architecture... I've always liked how GCs drive..they are quite capable offroad yet drive like a car, with none of the obesity or clunkiness of a truck..

I think the market for truck-based BOF SUVs smaller than full size is going to pretty much die out.. the next Explorer is also supposedly going to be unibody. Makes sense, most people don't do a lot of hauling with midsize and smaller SUVs, and the unibody ones drive much nicer than the truck-based ones...

Remember, an SUV (except for Jeeps, Land Rovers, Hummers, etc, which have that offroad 4x4 history) is fundamentally a wagon with more ground clearance...so the crossover/car based approach makes more sense than a truck-based approach for the vast majority of consumers...

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