Jeep plant near Rockford slated for more job cuts

Retirement offers and layoffs will further reduce the workforce at Belvidere as Stellantis deals with declining sales of its Cherokee model.

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A Cherokee model on display outside the Jeep plant in Belvidere in 2019.

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The Jeep plant in Belvidere, having gone through several cutbacks in recent years, is facing a new round of layoffs.

Stellantis, owner of the Jeep brand, said it will make an unspecified number of staffing cuts at the Belvidere plant near Rockford. The reductions will come via retirement packages for eligible unionized workers and layoffs of hourly and salaried staff, the company said.

Spokesperson Jodi Tinson said the reductions will take effect beginning in late May. She said state officials and Local 1268 of the United Auto Workers union, which represents hourly workers at the plant, were notified of the cutbacks Monday.

The plant has about 1,600 workers over one shift. In 2018, it had nearly 5,000 employees covering two shifts. Since 2017, Belvidere has built the Jeep Cherokee.

Tinson said because of a chronic shortage of microchips needed for vehicle electronics, the plant was closed the weeks of March 7 and 14 and will be shut the week of April 4.

The supply problems have contributed to a sharp falloff in Cherokee sales. Stellantis reported 2021 sales of the Cherokee were down 34% from 2020, to 89,126 vehicles.

Auto analysts have speculated that Belvidere will be retooled to produce electric versions of the Dodge Challenger and Charger sports cars.

“While we won’t comment on rumor or speculation about the future of any of our facilities, we can say that Stellantis is committed to bringing consumers an electrified future, investing $35 billion through 2025 on electrification and software,” Tinson said.

Leaders of the UAW local could not be reached for comment Friday.

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