ILLINOIS (IRN) — The future is electric for car and truck manufacturing in Illinois. As a key hub for electric vehicle manufacturing, Illinois is perfectly situated for parts and labor, said analyst Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting for AutoForecast.
Four global vehicle manufacturers – Rivian, Stellantis, Ford in Chicago and Lion Electric in Joliet – are currently building and rolling out EV operations in Illinois, he said.
“They are located very nicely between the northern and southern supplier chains, where they have the capability to tap into excellent workers and suppliers,” he said.
Near Rockford, Stellantis is retooling the Jeep Cherokee plant in Belvedere to make EV halo cars that could excite consumers, Fiorani said.
Stellantis was formed in January 2021, by the merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot of France.
“Their next generation of products will be very dynamic, on very unique platforms where the vehicles can either be all electric or hybrid,” Fiorani said. “The Belvedere plant will be among the first in the world to get this new platform.”
Stellantis is moving production of the Dodge Challenger and Charger from Ontario, Canada, to Belvedere, where they will be redesigned as EV halo cars.
“That is what buyers want. They want to go fast,” Fiorani said.
With their big internal combustion engines (ICE), the current generation of Challengers and Chargers eat up the highways with 800 horsepower, kicking out high amounts of polluting carbon emissions along the way.
“They pollute,” Fiorani said, “so we need an alternative. Modern electric vehicles are just as quick – if not quicker – than internal combustion vehicles of the same size. And they don’t pollute.”
The downside is that EVs are quiet. Buyers love to hear the big V-8s when they gun their engines, so the quiet is a potential hurdle for consumers, he said.
Fiorani believes Stellantis can win buyers over with performance.
“When you get zero to 60 times in under 3 seconds – that’s the potential for these vehicles – a lot of things can be overlooked,” he said. “When you can take another second off of an already very quick car, buyers may be willing to trade off lack of sound.”
For the past 5 or 6 years, Belvedere has been downsizing and laying off workers.
“It has got to be disheartening to the workforce that has been making vehicles there for generations. This could finally fill out that plant better than anything has for a long time,” Fiorani said.
The first EV Challengers and Chargers are set to roll off the Belvedere assembly line in January 2024.