Former Toledo Jeep Plant Site Now Home to Instrument Cluster Supplier
Next-generation Jeep Wrangler to get gauges built at historic siteby Mark McNabb, on
Detroit Manufacturing Systems LLC broke ground August 24 on a 102,000-square foot facility dedicated to making instrument clusters for various automakers and models, including the next-generation, 2017 Jeep Wrangler.
The plant will be located atop the same spot where every Jeep made between 1940 and 2001 was produced. Originally home to the Willys-Overland Company, the land housed the factory that built the Willys MB during WWII and later housed AMC and Chrysler’s Jeep operations. Many Jeep enthusiasts consider this “hallowed ground” and the birthplace of the brand. Today, the only remnant is a smokestack left for posterity. The red brick structure still reads “OVERLAND,” spelled out in black bricks.
The DMS facility will neighbor another factory in Overland Industrial Park, Dana Inc.’s new advanced axle factory. Dana will also be providing axles and other parts to FCA’s Toledo Assembly Complex some three miles down the street. The 2017 Wrangler will likely be riding on these Dana axles. Both companies are building around the smokestack, leaving it to stand for decades to come.
DMS expects to be fully operational by the summer of 2017 and initially employ at least 140 people. The growth of another 100 workers is projected by 2020. And interestingly enough, DMS CEO Andra Rush says she remembers making “midnight deliveries” to the old Jeep assembly plant before its decommissioning in 2001 and demolition in 2010. Rush, a former truck driver, launched her own trucking company in 1984, Rush Trucking Corp., of which she is still CEO.
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Why It Matters
Jeep hasn’t held operations at the Overland Industrial Park since 2001, but it is still considered important territory for the brand. Besides the single smokestack, the site has been a deserted wasteland of rubble and debris. Now with DMS and Dana building facilities there, the site is becoming an important part to the Jeep brand yet again.
Aside from the business aspects, this is a heartwarming story of repurposing old land that holds a special place in history. The Willys MB was a critical vehicle for the war effort in WWII and continues to represent the beginnings of the Jeep brand and much of its identity today. Modern Wranglers are still stylized after the MB.
Not only does this plot of land represent Jeep history, Toledo, Ohio itself is woven into the fabric of the brand. FCA has official announced it will keep Wrangler construction at the current Toledo assembly plant, while moving Cherokee production to a nearby state. This will make room for Jeep’s new Wrangler-based pickup.
Source: Automotive News