A piece of automotive history will soon fade into the record books as the longest-running vehicle assembly plant in American history, the Jeep Parkway in Toledo, OH, prepares to close up shop this week.
What started as the Willys-Overland factory in 1910 helped Willys become the second-largest car company in the US through World War I, and for a stretch in the 1920s the company was led by Walter P. Chrysler. The factory helped the US flex its industrial might and built vehicles and ordinance for the military in World War II, and in 1945, the first civilian Jeep CJ rolled off the line. Presumably, no one expected the sport-utility vehicle craze that would follow nearly five decades later. Throughout the post-war years, the company went through the hands of Kaiser, AMC, and Renault, with history coming full circle when the Chrysler Corporation acquired it in 1987.
The Cherokee SUV was added in the mid-80s and helped keep the plant alive (not to mention its role in popularizing mid-size SUVs), but the replacement of that model by the Liberty - produced at the nearby and significantly more modern Toledo North factory - made the demise of the plant somewhat unavoidable.
Once occupying over 4 million square feet, somewhere in the neighborhood of 11 million vehicles have rolled out of the factory over the years. GM's Jansville, WI facility will need to run another decade to match the Toledo facility's 96 years of existence.
[Source: Toledo Blade]