With Stellantis Idling the Belvidere Plant, Here’s What’s Happening with the Jeep Cherokee

The company issued a statement that it's "committed to expanding its presence" in the midsize SUV segment

(Images: Stellantis)

Jeep shuttered its Belvidere, Illinois assembly plant indefinitely, throwing the Cherokee’s future into doubt.

On February 28, 2023, the exclusive production site of the midsize Cherokee crossover will close indefinitely, Stellantis announced Friday. In the process, the company will indefinitely lay off 1,350 workers — at least, it’s expecting to do so for more than six months, according to WIFR.

Upon releasing the news, company spokesperson Jodi Tinson said, “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.” What’s more, Tinson said the company is “working to identify other opportunities to repurpose the Belvidere facility.”

The plant drastically scaled back its workforce since moving Jeep Cherokee production there in 2017. The production cut trends with declining sales for the midsize crossover, which slid 61% in the first nine months of 2022, to just 30,852 units. By contrast, its larger Grand Cherokee sibling sold 172,545 examples, while even the smaller Compass managed 66,966 sales. Now, there’s a huge amount of uncertainty and doubt, particularly as the employees around the Rockford, Illinois area now have to figure out their next moves in the wake of another wave of layoffs.

The Cherokee may live on, but we won’t know for awhile yet

The Belvidere assembly plant first opened in 1965, producing cars from the Plymouth Fury to the Dodge Neon, Chrysler New Yorker and now the Jeep Cherokee. When we asked another Jeep spokesperson whether the brand’s midsize crossover would be discontinued with the factory’s idling, this was their response:

The Jeep brand is fully committed to expanding its presence in the mid-size SUV segment, one of the largest in the world. The brand recently announced the introduction of two new fully electric, mid-size SUVs that will begin production in 2024. We will make an announcement regarding the next generation Jeep Cherokee in due course. All Jeep brand vehicles will offer an electrified variant by 2025, including four zero-emission vehicles in North America and in Europe. 

“Making an announcement” regarding the next-generation Jeep Cherokee, to my mind, at least vaguely suggests it will live on into another generation. We don’t know with certainty what the next two midsize SUVs kicking off production in 2024 will be, but Jeep did mention their upcoming debuts a few months ago.

Whether the automaker will incorporate Belvidere into their future plans remains to be seen, at least for now. It’s possible the plant may be converted as part of Stellantis’ goals to offer fully electric vehicles by 2030. We’ll have to wait for “due course” to happen before we get a clearer picture, so stay tuned for more updates.