Automaker Stellantis is idling its Jeep plant in Belvidere and could repurpose it, but it has no clear plans for a reopening.
The company — owner of other iconic makes such as Chrysler, Dodge and Ram — said Friday it will close the plant Feb. 28. It said all 1,350 workers will be laid off indefinitely. In a statement, Stellantis said it expects the layoffs will exceed six months.
“Our industry has been adversely affected by a multitude of factors, like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the global microchip shortage, but the most impactful challenge is the increasing cost related to the electrification of the automotive market,” said spokesperson Jodi Tinson.
“Stellantis has taken a number of actions to stabilize production and improve efficiency at its North American facilities to preserve affordability and customer satisfaction in terms of quality.”
She called the closure “difficult but necessary” and said the company will work to place affected workers in other full-time jobs.
“The company also is working to identify other opportunities to repurpose the Belvidere facility and has no additional details to share at this time,” Tinson said.
The company has not commented on speculation from auto analysts that Belvidere will be retooled to produce electric versions of the Dodge Challenger and Charger sports cars.
The plant near Rockford has produced the Jeep Cherokee, a model that has faced a difficult time in the marketplace. In its report of volume through the third quarter, the company said sales of the Cherokee were down 61% from the same period in 2021.
The laid-off workers include hourly employees who belong to the United Auto Workers union and those on salary.
“We are all deeply angered by Stellantis’ decision to idle the Belvidere Assembly plant without a plan for future product,” said Cindy Estrada, UAW vice president and director of the Stellantis Department.
“There are many vehicle platforms imported from other countries that could be built in Belvidere with skill and quality by UAW members at Belvidere. The transition to electrification also creates opportunities for new product. 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.”
UAW President Ray Curry said the company is “grossly misguided in idling this plant which has produced profits for the company since 1965. Not allocating new product to plants like Belvidere is unacceptable. Announcing the closure just a few weeks from the holidays is also a cruel disregard for the contributions of our members from UAW Locals 1268 and 1761. We will fight back against this announcement.”
The notice of the layoff follows terms of the federal Workforce Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, known as WARN.
In October, the company announced it was offering buyouts to certain salaried workers at Belvidere. Those employees had until Dec. 5 to accept the offer.
Last spring, Stellantis announced layoffs of hourly and salaried workers at the plant that reduced its headcount by about 400.