Toledo, Ohio, is scrambling to come up with an incentive package that would allow it to remain the production home of the Jeep Wrangler, a vehicle with deep economic and emotional ties to the area.
For decades, the rugged sport-utility vehicle has been built in Northern Ohio and local politicians want to ensure the next model is, too. Jeep’s owner, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, hasn’t asked for a penny but has hinted it may consider other production locales.
A redesign of the Wrangler, which still resembles the military vehicle it is based on, is due in 2017. The new model’s body likely will be made largely of lightweight aluminum instead of steel. Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said in October that change may prompt a shift of Wrangler production to another factory. City and state officials are taking his remarks to heart.
“It’s very troubling,” said Matt Sapara, Toledo’s economic development chief. Jeeps have been built in Toledo since World War II, and their rough-and-tumble image is part of the city’s identity. “We’re doing everything we can to keep the Wrangler,” said Mr. Sapara.
Toledo now employs 5,000 Fiat Chrysler workers, many building Wranglers. Mr. Marchionne has said Toledo wouldn’t lose jobs and would get another vehicle to build if the Wrangler is moved elsewhere.
But locals say the Wrangler has been a constant in a boom and bust business. A campaign to keep the Wrangler in Toledo has come with rallies, banners expressing Jeep fealty, and an offer of 70 acres for expansion. Around town, signs on buildings and fences proclaim “This is Home” printed under a picture of a red Jeep Wrangler with an outline of the state of Ohio around it.