Fiat Chrysler, riding a wave of strong truck and SUV sales, is planning to build a new final assembly plant in Detroit even as other American automakers scale back operations in the U.S., according to people familiar with the plan.
The assembly plant, an old Mack II Engine Plant that closed in 2012, will build a new three-row, Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV starting in 2020 as the automaker moves to keep up with strong demand for utility vehicles, the people said. A spokesperson for Fiat Chrysler would not comment on the report, nor confirm the automaker’s plans.
The move comes as the industry faces pressure from President Donald Trump to keep manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and stands in stark contrast to the recent decision by General Motors to stop production and idle five plants in North America including four in the United States.
GM has come under fire after announcing last week that it plans to cut 14,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada, citing a weakening economy, the escalating trade war and a desire to reposition itself as a smaller, more nimble company. Ford is also scaling back, saying last week that it planned to cut a shift at two of its U.S. plants in an attempt to avoid more onerous layoffs.
Detroit will lose two GM facilities altogether. Both were performing well under capacity and contributing to a dismal capacity utilization rate of just 76 percent across the United States, far below Fiat Chrysler’s rate of 90 percent.
Fiat Chrysler’s plants are running at close to capacity due to continued strong demand for trucks and SUV’s. Overall, Fiat Chrysler’s sales in the U.S. are up 8 percent this year, easily outpacing the industry less than one percent according to the market research firm Autodata.