Toledo Gets Even More Desperate While Trying to Keep Wrangler Production in Ohio
Politicians from Ohio aren’t generally known for being all that bright, but the whole issue with Toledo and the future of Jeep Wrangler production is getting a little out of hand, even for them. It was in October of last year that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) CEO Sergio Marchionne announced that the Jeep Wrangler would be switching to an aluminum-body construction for the 2017 model year. And when he announced this, he (most likely with the intent of being manipulative) mentioned that production of the Wrangler would probably have to move out of Toledo, since more space would be needed.
Now, it makes sense that Toledo and Ohio officials might freak out about that and try their darnedest to get Jeep to stay—but when Marchionne assured them that, if Wrangler production were to move, no jobs would be lost (as the facility would take up production of another model), you’d think that would have appeased city officials and union representatives enough.
Nope. Instead, they are spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to keep Jeep Wrangler production in Ohio. The Wrangler has been produced in Toledo since World War II, but is it really worth that much of the taxpayers’ money to keep it there, when something just as profitable could replace it? Though, policymakers do seem to like to keep things as they are, for the sake of tradition, so we really shouldn’t be surprised.
Over the last few months, Toledo has been securing land and money to convince FCA to stay put, and in March, the city handed over a proposal to explain why FCA should stick around. Even so, officials are still scrambling to make Toledo attractive to the future production of the Wrangler. Most recently, Toledo indicated that it hopes to buy $1.5 million worth of residential properties—17 in total—to expand current Wrangler production. The 17 properties are owned by 14 separate owners, many of whom have already expressed interest in selling to the government.
Toledo was clear that it would not be using eminent domain to secure any of these acquisitions. If the owners do not wish to sell, they will not have to.
The real question is, is this necessary? Is Toledo playing into a trap laid by Marchionne to make producing the Wrangler easier and cheaper for his company? Is Marchionne really even considering Toledo at this point? No one knows for certain, but time is running out if FCA hopes to make the switch to aluminum for 2017. Look for a definitive answer next month.