Jeep Compass hits milestone for Belvidere plant
For the first time since it was put into production, the Jeep Compass has became the best selling vehicle of the three assembled at Chrysler’s Belvidere assembly plant.
Thanks to a big April in markets outside North America, the Compass, with 7,170 sales, outsold the Jeep Patriot (6,582) and the Dodge Caliber (5,733).
The Compass, with its more rounded look than traditional Jeeps, has long been the most maligned of the three Belvidere vehicles introduced in 2006. It reached its nadir in September 2009 when just 1,267 were sold worldwide.
But Chrysler Group LLC, now under the management of Italian automaker Fiat SpA, redesigned the 2011 Compass exterior to resemble a smaller version of its popular Jeep Grand Cherokee. The company also beefed up its marketing campaign, launching a commercial calling the small SUV the “evolution of a legendary bloodline.”
The changes seem to be working so far. Although the automotive industry as a whole is on an upswing, Jeep Compass sales worldwide are running 67 percent ahead of 2010’s pace, when Chrysler dealers sold just 35,119 Compasses.
“The redesign is the No. 1 reason you are seeing more interest in the Compass,” said Pierre LaFranca, sales manager of Jack Wolf Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Belvidere. “The customers and our employees call it the ‘Baby Grand’ now because it really does look like a baby Jeep Grand Cherokee.”
The Compass, Patriot and Caliber are scheduled to be phased out in 2012 to make way at the plant for new vehicles built on Fiat architecture.
Nearly 2,400 people work at the Belvidere assembly plant and an additional 1,700 work at supplier operations nearby. Last week, United Auto Workers officials said Chrysler may add a third shift to the plant and another 1,000 workers if demand for the Caliber, Compass and Patriot continues to grow. The company is building a $600 million, more than 500,000-square-foot addition to the landmark plant. When completed, the facility will be more than 4.8 million square feet.
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