A UAW Local 12 union official confirmed today that production of the current Jeep Liberty will end on August 16. In order to retool the line and complete a 280,000-square-foot addition to the body shop, the section of the Toledo Assembly Complex that produces the Liberty will be shut down for several months; Wrangler production will be unaffected.
Employees will come back in stages as the new model comes on line; small numbers of workers will return in early November, followed by team leaders in early 2013 for the first prototype builds. The line will be restarted next March or April and the vehicle should be on sale in May of 2013. In the next few weeks, members of the factory team will begin assembling virtual models of the new vehicle during a “digital build” process at Chrysler’s Technical Center.
The same official reconfirmed our earlier reports that the Liberty’s replacement will use the Fiat/Chrysler CUSW (Compact U.S. Wide) platform, be available in front- and all-wheel-drive configurations, and use a nine-speed automatic transmission. Codenamed “KL,” the Liberty’s as-of-yet-unnamed replacement will have four primary trim levels. Based on preliminary testing results, engineers are shooting for a 31-mpg highway fuel-economy rating. Even if that’s achieved only with front-drive versions, it represents a significant improvement; the current Liberty manages only 16 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway with rear-wheel drive, and 15/21 when equipped with all-wheel drive.
Company officials haven’t ruled out resurrecting the revered Cherokee name for duty on the new mid-size Jeep. As our source notes, the Liberty was sold as a Cherokee in markets outside of North America, which might provide a little insight. Chrysler is expected to unveil the new Jeep model at the 2013 Detroit auto show.