Plans could of course change when fully disclosed, especially to the union that represents about 3,000 workers an hour at the Brampton plant.
“Stellantis has had no discussion with myself or the union to inform us of their plans to move our current product line to another facility,” said Ardis Snow, factory president for Unifor Local 1285. “We do have indicators telling us that and we questioned the company about this.
“The company owes it to this membership to be honest and transparent about their plans,” Snow added. “If their plans are to move our products to another facility, they will face the biggest fight of their lives.”
Stellantis’ decision is influenced by EV incentives at the state and national levels. Gov. JB Pritzker signed the Reimagining Electric Vehicles in Illinois Act (REV Illinois Act) on Nov. 16 at a ceremony held at the Rock Valley College Advanced Technology Center in Belvidere.
The new law provides for tax credits and exemptions for manufacturers and their suppliers.
The credits range from 75% to 100% of the income tax withheld for new job creation or 25% to 50% for retained employees, depending on factors such as the location of the company. There are also credits for training costs and costs for construction wages and construction materials.
Elected officials and representatives from the governor’s office had talks with local Stellantis officials to determine what kinds of incentives they would need to support investment, state Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) said. “They wouldn’t have had those conversations if they hadn’t seriously considered converting the plant and keeping it as part of their portfolio.”
In addition, the clean energy law passed earlier this year includes a $4,000 discount for residents who purchase an EV. Federal tax credits are also available, which would be expanded under President Joe Biden’s $1.7 trillion Democrat-only social spending bill.
Pamela Lopez-Fettes, executive director of Belvidere and Boone County economic development organization Growth Dimensions, says the new state law allays concerns from Stellantis and its suppliers that Illinois was not as competitive as other Midwestern states. “We feel we are in a very good position,” she says.
With the Belvidere plant operating under capacity, Fiorani said the facility could begin refurbishment while Cherokees are still being built. Stellantis has said that Jeep would offer an all-electric SUV by 2025, but Fiorani expects that production will be moved to another factory. Belvidere started the year with 3,600 two-shift employees and, before the most recent layoff announcement, it had a single shift with 2,100 employees.
The first Challengers and Chargers are expected to be hybrid rather than all-electric, as buyers aren’t ready to fully switch to electric-only cars, Fiorani says. Consumers worry about running out of battery if they’re far from home and can’t easily find a charging station, he adds. The company, he noted, has promised to eventually produce an all-electric sports car.
But isn’t an all-electric muscle car something of an oxymoron? An 800 horsepower Dodge Challenger Hellcat with an internal combustion engine means 15 mpg and CO2 emissions, which isn’t sustainable, Fiorana says. In comparison, the 1,000 horsepower Tesla Model S Plaid delivers 101 MPG equivalent and produces no exhaust CO2. “Electric cars are not slow,” he says.
A new electrified crossover from Chrysler is needed as the brand will move to minivans after the expected demise of its 300 sedan. “It will be necessary to get more vehicles into the showrooms,” says Fiorani. “The brand needs something electrified and unique to make buyers look at Chrysler again.”