Looks Like Trouble For Both Jeep Wrangler and Cherokee

What’s happening to the Jeep Cherokee and Wrangler? SUVs are the hottest vehicle made today, but Cherokee sales are way off. Has it lost the magic it has held for so many years? In 2018 it hit almost 240,000 units sold. For 2019? Only a bit over 190,000. That’s a 20% slide in 2019. In the fourth quarter, sales fell by over 30%. Now there’s trouble and Fiat-Chrysler has to do something.

As of January 2020, the Automotive News Data Center found 53,000 models of Cherokee inventory. That is a 97-day supply. Most analysts say a 45-60 day supply is optimal. In December there was a 91-day supply so Cherokees have backed up an additional six days in one month. 

The Cherokee numbers are better than these Wrangler numbers

A Jeep Wrangler with a hard top on the assembly line
A Jeep Wrangler with a hardtop on the assembly line | Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

But these numbers are far better than in February when inventories of the Wrangler hit 166-day supplies. 

Some of the downturn may be attributed to sticker shock. New Wranglers cost an average of 42,500 in 2018. That was an increase of $5,000 from 2017 when the average price was $37,500. As a comparison, the average price in 2008 was $26,700. 

This translates to buyers paying nearly 60% more than a decade earlier. Whatever it means sales are down for both Jeep models. 

A plant shutdown has been ordered for two weeks

2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk | Jeep

With this news, Fiat-Chrysler has ordered a shutdown of its Belvidere assembly plant outside of Chicago for two weeks. The shutdown begins on Monday, January 13, 2020, to align production with demand. Unless something changes the plant will resume Cherokee assembly on January 27. 

The plant was also shut down in August for the same reason. Beyond the shutdowns, around 1,400 people were laid off last year as the plant went from three shifts down to two shifts. The Belvidere plant now employs about 3,700 people. 

The Belvidere plant exclusively builds Cherokees

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

The Belvidere plant exclusively builds Cherokees since Fiat-Chrysler moved assembly from Toledo, Ohio, in 2017. It invested $350 million in converting the plant for Cherokees in 2016. It will invest an additional $55 million as Cherokee production is scheduled to continue. 

New for current plant production will be the integration of the next-gen safety features into 2020 Cherokees. This is based on info obtained with the new union labor pact. Cherokee models include the Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, Trailhawk, and Overland.

Since 1965 this plant has been cranking out Chrysler products including a myriad of Jeep models

Chrysler assembly plant changeover | Getty

The storied plant has been the home to many Chrysler products since it opened in 1965. All full-size Plymouth and Dodge sedans and station wagons were originally assembled there. In 1977 the plant was converted over to begin assembling front-wheel-drive Plymouth Horizon and Dodge Omni models through 1987.

Since then a number of models have been assembled including the Chrysler Imperial, Plymouth, and Dodge Neon, Dodge Caliber, and both the Jeep Compass and Patriot. That production ended in 2016 to make room for the Cherokee.

Besides the 5 million-square-foot Cherokee assembly there is a 300,000 square-foot stamping plant located on the same 280 acres.