The 2014 Jeep Cherokee is on its way to markets everywhere, which means high demand for the company's new nine-speed automatic transmission. Chrysler’s bracing for that new demand by investing $19.6 million to manufacture the new transmission’s torque converters in Toledo, Ohio.
Chrysler's Toledo plants are in flux a bit: the Toledo North complex previously made the Jeep Liberty but is now tasked with making the upcoming Cherokee. The plant known as Toledo Supplier Park is struggling to keep up with demand for the iconic Wrangler SUV. The Toledo Machining Plant (which is actually in nearby Perrysburg, Ohio) makes steering columns and torque converters for products like the Ram 1500, Chrysler 200/Dodge Avenger, and Dodge Grand Caravan/Chrysler Town and Country.
The Toledo Machining Plant received some $72 million in investments in August 2011 to jumpstart its steering column production plans, as well as plans to make the torque converters for Chrysler's ZF-designed eight-speed automatic transmission. The additional $19.6 million goes towards adding the torque converter for all-new nine-speed unit to the plant.
As of publication, we know that the nine-speed is headed into the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, mated to either the 2.4-liter naturally aspirated I-4 (184 hp) from the Dodge Dart GT, or a 3.2-liter version of Chrysler's ubiquitous 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 (271 hp, 239 lb-ft). The transmission is a big factor behind the Cherokee's forecasted EPA figures: up to 31 mpg on the highway (for I-4, front-wheel drive, nine-speed models).
From there, the transmission is a shoo-in for the Dodge Dart, perhaps as a replacement for the unloved six-speed dual dry-clutch transmission (DDCT) in SXT and Rallye models (with the 1.6-liter MultiAir turbo). It'll also reportedly help the next Chrysler 200 -- the "beautiful, relevant" model officials have promised -- achieve 38 mpg on the highway.