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Demand for Jeep Wranglers nationally has added production time at the Toledo Jeep Assembly complex, but weak sales of the Dodge Nitro means a two-week shutdown at a neighboring factory.

The factory that makes the Nitro also makes the Jeep Liberty, and the adjustment will provide for changes to make more of the redesigned Liberty. The shutdown will idle about 3,000 workers.

Toledo Jeep is perhaps metro Toledo’s most well-known employer.

Chrysler LLC said it has added two hours to one shift at the factories making the Wrangler and will add those hours to a second shift starting Monday. Those factories, which the company said had been working eight-hour shifts five days a week, have 1,350 Chrysler and supplier workers.

The extra production comes after a United Auto Workers leader said Toledo Jeep could make only 583 Wranglers a day but demand was for more than 1,000 a day.

“The public can’t get enough of them,” said Bruce Baumhower, UAW Local 12 president at Toledo Jeep. Hearing about the added production time yesterday, he said, “It’s great that vehicle has exceeded everybody’s expectation and I hope it continues until they have to put on a third shift and hire more workers.”

Chrysler declined to say how many more vehicles would result from the added production, but union estimates indicate possibly another 80 vehicles a day.

Through September this year, the company has sold 92,549 Wranglers, up 71 percent or 38,000 more than the same period a year ago.

Much of the sales drive stems from the four-door vehicles, which were added last year. Area auto dealers have praised the vehicle and said they would like more to sell.

At a neighboring factory, Chrysler needs to make adjustments to decrease the number of Nitros produced and to increase the number of Libertys. The Liberty has a boxier and brawnier look than the old Liberty, which was phased out in July.

One expected desired attraction is a Sky Slider roof, which unfolds front-to-back or back-to-front.

But the new Liberty is just getting to auto dealers, who have been trying to sell the old model.

Through September, 68,865 vehicles have been sold, down 33 percent from the period a year ago.

Nitro sales have been sluggish. “There’s been a decline in market environment,” said Chrysler spokesman Michele Tinson.

The vehicle went into production late last summer, so less than 1,000 were sold through September last year. This year, 55,789 have sold.

The factory makes fewer than 1,200 vehicles a day, and has been making about 60 percent Liberty and 40 percent Nitro,
union officials have said.

Chrysler declined to say how many more Libertys will be made after the shutdown, but said the factory will continue to make Nitros.

The shutdown is needed to make adjustments to the line and to give Toledo Jeep suppliers time to ramp up to make more parts for the additional Liberty production, Ms. Tinson said.

Asked about the currently stalled Nitro sales, Mr. Baumhower said, “We think once the Sky Slider version of the new Liberty gets out, it’ll fix the problem and fix the mix of the vehicles made.”

LINK: http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071005/BUSINESS02/710050405

Well not good news for Nitro or those that have one on order and less production is planned in the future. Still glad I got mine!
 
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