Chrysler Group LLC will halt production of the Jeep Liberty on Aug. 16 and begin retooling its Toledo North factory to produce an as-yet unnamed successor to the sport utility vehicle.
Workers at the plant will be laid off “for several months,” the company said Wednesday. The move was expected, though the date had not been announced.
Chrysler will begin shipping the new model in the second quarter of 2013, according to Zach Leroux, the plant manager. The company also plans to add another shift there after it reopens.
“We have new product and a whole new shift, so our task is tall,” Leroux said. “We have a tall challenge ahead of us.”
Chrysler said in November that it would invest $1.7 billion to develop a replacement for the Liberty and upgrade and expand the Toledo assembly complex to add capacity.
The Toledo investment includes $500 million to expand the plant’s body shop and install a metrology center that verifies vehicle measurements and improves the fit and finish of components. The plant will add more than 1,100 jobs, boosting total employment to 2,800 at the complex that also assembles Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler Limited SUVs, Chrysler has said.
The to-be-named replacement to the Liberty is among the most important new models next year for Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of Chrysler, based in Auburn Hills, and Fiat, its majority owner.
New offerings by Chrysler next year include updates to the Grand Cherokee SUV in the first quarter, followed by the Liberty replacement and a refreshed Ram heavy-duty pickup in mid-2013, Richard Palmer, Chrysler’s chief financial officer, said in a July 31 conference call.
Those models follow the introduction of the new Dodge Dart compact car this year and a revamped light-duty Ram truck arriving in the fourth quarter.
Total U.S. sales for Chrysler Group rose 28 percent to 960,157 cars and light trucks this year through July, according to researcher Autodata Corp.