The Maserati Levante, an Italian sport utility which shares features with the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, will not be built at Chrysler Group LLC's Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Michigan. Production of the sleek Italian beauty received ballyhoo attention from Michigan’s Republican governor as evidence of a comeback for Detroit and as evidence of Fiat/Chrysler devotion to the Motor City and the state once synonymous with automobiles.
The luxury sport utility vehicle will be assembled at the Mirafiori facility near Fiat’s headquarters in Torino, Italy. The decision to build the Levante in Italy was made in 2012 but not announced until now. According to Chrysler leadership, workers at the Jefferson North plant will be busy fabricating other vehicles. According to spokesman Gualberto Ranieri, "The reason for the decision is very simple: The production capacity of (Jefferson North) is going to be absorbed completely by the Grand Cherokee and Durango." He added, "The success of Grand Cherokee is beyond expectations.” He also said, "The biggest complaint we have from dealers is that they cannot get enough Grand Cherokees."
Fiat/Chrysler is beefing up its European business by converting Fiat factories to produce higher-end Maseratis and Alfa Romeos. Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne announced in October 2012 that new investments were in store for the Mirafiori factory and elsewhere in Italy. "We are not closing Mirafiori," Marchionne said this month in Italy. "We will make luxury cars for both Maserati and for Alfa Romeo." Among these is the Levante, a production version of the Kubang concept that Marchionne showed off in Detroit last year. In January 2012, Marchionne told the press that building Maseratis in Detroit would dispel myths about Detroit. "This is one classic way of debunking the myth that Detroit — and Michigan — is limited in terms of its capabilities to produce great vehicles," Marchionne declared proudly. "It sets a new benchmark for what this state and the United States car industry can and should produce."
Republican governor Rick Snyder bought into the hype. "Being built at the Jefferson Street plant says a lot for Detroit for having the highest quality in the world," said Snyder, adding, “Those are things we like to see happening."
But the loss of Maserati may be well compensated by gains in sales of Grand Cherokees. The Grand Cherokee was the first new vehicle proffered by Fiat-Chrysler in 2009 after the Obama bailout. Sales topped 154,000 in 2012, which represented a gain of 21 percert over 2011. The Jefferson North plan may soon be running at capacity and in three shifts. The Cherokee was designed in the US before Chrysler merged with Fiat.
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