Automaker Stellantis will idle its Belvidere, Ill., assembly plant indefinitely by February 28, 2023, citing higher operating costs and disruptions due to supply-chain complications, though United Auto Workers union representatives claimed the Chrysler parent company plans to close the operation.
Stellantis said the transition to electric-vehicle production, and the costs related to that shift, are the specific cause for the idling. Last year the automaker pledged to invest $35 billion worldwide for electric vehicle and software development through 2025.
The Belvidere plant, in north central Illinois, assembles the Jeep Cherokee crossover SUV. It has 1,350 workers currently, though it employed more than 5,000 as recently as 2019.
In a statement, Stellantis said it is looking for opportunities to repurpose Belvidere plant but offered no details of that effort.
A representative of the local UAW union alleged that Stellantis has no plans to restart the plant, and that it will reassign Cherokee assembly work to a Toluca, Mexico, plant. Shop chairman Tim Ferguson said: "It'sa pretty tough pill to swallow that they're going to ship your vehicle to Mexico," Ferguson said. "To me there is no question about it. Their plan is to close this plant."
A Stellantis spokeswoman would not comment on future plans for the Cherokee program.
“We are all deeply angered by Stellantis’ decision to idle the Belvidere Assembly plant without a plan for future product,” stated UAW vice president and director of the Stellantis department, Cindy Estrada. “The transition to electrification also creates opportunities for new products. Companies like Stellantis receive billions in government incentives to transition to clean energy. It is an insult to all taxpayers that they are not investing that money back into our communities.”