• Jun 27th 2006 at 10:24AM
  • 10

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]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 9 Years Ago
      C'mon guys, the plant facility is almost 100 years old. It's miraculous that it has had this long of a run.

      Jeep is not removing capacity per se, it is retiring an old facility - very old. It's moving production elsewhere, I think with the introduction of the all-new Jeep which is replacing the Wrangler (but will have the "look"). Not forgetting that the Wrangler was a replacement for the CJ which completely changed from the basis of the military jeep in 1953, when it was redesigned for the Korean war.

      In other words, Jeep is not dead.

      However, hopefully the "Jeep curse" is gone. Jeep is like a third rail with a delayed reaction time.

      Every company which "touches" Jeep dies.

      Kaiser-Frazer bought up Willys-Overland in 1953, and Kaiser cars were discontinued in 1955 in the USA and by 1961 in Argentina.

      American Motors bought Jeep from Kaiser in 1970. By 1979 or so, AMC had to sell a portion of itself to Renault in order to survive, and then sold out to Chrysler in 1987.

      Chrysler obtained Jeep with AMC and by 1999 ceased to exist as Daimler-Benz bought it up to help stabilize it.
        Milton Vinny Beckman
        • 11 Months Ago

        it is not the oldest assembly plant. Gen motors Plant in Tarrytown, NY is. It was started in 1896 with the Stanley Steamer.

      • 9 Years Ago
      There is an historical loss, but it was an OLD facility. It makes economic sense to build new instead of continuously rebuilding old. Still a little sad though.
      • 9 Years Ago
      The Liberty moved to the new Toledo North facilty.
      • 9 Years Ago
      That plant was cool. Old as all hell but cool.
      • 9 Years Ago
      It's funny when they close an old plant in light of more modern production facilities, and people think it's because Jeep is on the decline, or that Jeep will disappear.

      Couldn't be further from the truth. :)
      • 9 Years Ago
      Growing up in the Toledo area, I always like driving by that Jeep plant along I-75 and seeing the finished Wranglers and Cherokees on the roof. Yes, the roof. Look at the left side of the picture and you can see the mostly empty lot on the roof where the finished Jeeps would go.

      I remember when the imnploded the old Willys office building on that property when I was a kid too. Went to see it happen, but Dad had heard the time wrong and we arrived to a pile of rubble instead.
      • 9 Years Ago
      They already demolised about half of it a could of years ago. It is really suprising how big this place was. I took a tour of it on a class field trip about 8 years ago. We where there almost all day and only seen about half of the plant. Just walking around you could tell how old the building was. Jeep had to allow the workers to be able to smoke and listen to the radio because the working condition where so poor and they didnt want them to strike.

      The new plant does look much better. Plus, they just added a new big extension to it.
      • 9 Years Ago
      So wheres the wrangler going to be produced now? Same plant as the liberty?
      Gary Matter
      • 9 Years Ago
      I remember after Chrysler acquired Jeep in 1987, a friend of mine, who was a big fan of the AMC Jeep said to me," You watch, the Jeep name will disappear in 20 years".
      Hmm, maybe he was right.