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EV Dodge Challenger, Charger models to be built in Belvidere, sources say – Crain's Chicago Business

The sprawling auto assembly plant in Belvidere is in line for a retooling to produce electric and hybrid Dodge Challenger and Charger muscle cars.
The Belvidere plant just east of Rockford and owned by the Amsterdam-based conglomerate Stellantis, has been producing the Jeep Cherokee. But output has been curtailed due to the shortage of microchips and the company recently (Nov. 16) announced the layoff of 400 workers. Stellantis was established early this year with the merger of Fiat Chrysler and France’s PSA Group and includes the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram brands.
But the future for Belvidere looks bright. Stellantis is expected to relocate production of the Dodge sports cars from Brampton, Ontario, according to Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions near Philadelphia. The move is part of a reshuffling of plants as Stellantis develops a new platform for its electric vehicles. “This is not speculation,” said Fiorani, citing industry sources directly familiar with the automaker’s planning. 
Stellantis announced in July that it would invest at least $35.5 billion in vehicle electrification and new software through 2025, including an electric Dodge muscle car by 2024. A Stellantis spokeswoman cited the company commitment to EVs, but declined to comment on “rumor or speculation about the future of any of our facilities.”
“When it comes to new investment and product allocation, many factors are taken into consideration to bolster our global competitiveness and position the company for future growth,” she said. 
Belvidere is the right size for the Challenger and Charger, Fiorani said. “As cars have fallen out of favor in the American market, these two remaining models will survive the next generation, but be produced at a lower volume,” he added. He anticipates annual production of 200,000 after the changeover, with a third model to be added, a Chrysler electrified crossover.
Plans of course, could change when they are fully disclosed, especially to the union representing about 3,000 hourly workers 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 up to another facility,” said Ardis Snow, plant chair for Unifor Local 1285. “We do have indicators that are telling us that and we have been questioning the company on it.
“The company owes it to this membership to be honest and transparent of their plans,” Snow added. “If their plans are to move our products to another facility, they will be in for the biggest fight of their lives.”
Influencing the Stellantis decision are EV incentives at the state and national levels. Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Nov. 16 signed the Reimagining Electric Vehicles in Illinois Act (REV Illinois Act) in a ceremony at Rock Valley College Advanced Technology Center in Belvidere. 
The new law provides tax credits and exemptions for manufacturers and their suppliers.
The credits range from 75% to 100% of income tax withheld for creating new jobs or 25% to 50% for retained employees, depending on factors such as company location. There also are credits for training expenses and costs for construction wages and building materials.
Elected officials and representatives of the governor’s office had conversations with local Stellantis officials to determine the kinds of incentives they would need to support investment, says state Sen. Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford). “They wouldn’t have had those conversations if they were not seriously considering retooling the plant and keeping it as part of their portfolio.”
In addition, the clean energy law passed earlier this year includes a $4,000 rebate for residents who buy an EV. There also are federal tax credits available, which would be expanded under President Joe Biden’s $1.7 trillion, Democrats’-only social spending bill.
Pamela Lopez-Fettes, executive director for the Belvidere and Boone County economic development organization Growth Dimensions says the new state law goes far to allay concerns by Stellantis and its suppliers that Illinois wasn’t as competitive as other Midwestern states. “We feel that we’re in a very good position,” she says.
Because the Belvidere plant is operating under capacity, the facility could begin retooling while still building Cherokees, according to Fiorani. Stellantis has said Jeep would offer an all-electric SUV by 2025, but Fiorani expects that production to be moved to another plant. Belvidere started the year with 3,600 employees on two shifts and, before the most recent layoff announcement, was operating a single shift with 2,100 workers.
The initial Challengers and Chargers are expected to be hybrids rather than fully electric because buyers aren’t ready to shift completely to electric-only cars, Fiorani says. Consumers are worried about running out of battery charge when they are far from home and not being able to easily find a charging station, he adds. The company, he noted, has promised to eventually produce a fully electric sports car.
But isn’t a fully electric muscle car something of an oxymoron? An 800-horsepower Dodge Challenger Hellcat with an internal combustion engine means 15 mpg and CO2 tailpipe emissions, which isn’t sustainable, Fiorana says. By comparison, the Tesla Model S Plaid with 1,000 horsepower returns 101 MPG equivalent and produces no tailpipe CO2. “Electric cars are not slow,” he says.
A new Chrysler electrified crossover is needed because the brand will be down to minivans after the expected demise of its 300 sedan. “Getting more vehicles into showrooms will be necessary,” Fiorani says. “The brand needs something both electrified and unique to make buyers look at Chrysler again.”
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