Jeep Cherokee 2014 Production Set for September

TOLEDO, Ohio (Reuters) – Production of Chrysler Group LLC’s new 2014 Jeep Cherokee is expected to reach full capacity by September, the company said on Thursday.

Currently, one shift of workers at Chrysler’s Toledo plant is building the Cherokee, which went into production June 24 as a successor to the Jeep Liberty. The company is beginning to ramp up a second shift.

“Within three weeks, we’ll be at full volume” for a single shift, said Zachary Leroux, manager of the Toledo Assembly Complex.

The 2014 Cherokee is scheduled to go on sale in August.

At full capacity, the plant will be able to produce 500 vehicles per nine-hour shift, or about 240,000 Jeeps a year. The plant currently is making about 150 Cherokees per day, Leroux said on a media tour of the Toledo complex, which also builds the Jeep Wrangler.

Mechanics, team leaders and skilled trades workers have already begun training for the second shift and other workers will begin training this week.

Chrysler is adding 1,100 jobs to run the second shift. The automaker invested $550 million to prepare the Toledo plant for the new Cherokee.

The 2014 Cherokee shares its basic underbody design and a number of components with the Dodge Dart sedan and redesigned 2015 Chrysler 200, which is scheduled to launch early next year.

The common architecture was developed originally by Chrysler’s Italian parent Fiat SpA <FIA.MI>. It is also used in Europe by Alfa Romeo.

Though Chrysler initially will run two nine-hour shifts, Leroux said the company could boost each shift to 10 hours. He also said Chrysler has no plans at this time to add a third shift, but noted, “There are 24 hours in a day. Some plants work 24 hours.”