Fiat Chrysler is pushing its red-hot Jeep brand into a higher gear with a major production expansion.
The automaker says it will hire 6,500 workers and invest $4.5 billion by adding a new assembly plant in Detroit and boosting production at five existing factories.
CEO Mike Manley said expanding in Detroit is a logical decision given the company's facilities in the area and the desire to produce Jeeps in the U.S. "We're an American brand. We're proud of that within the Jeep brand," he said in a statement.
Executives have made it clear for months that the company would be expanding Jeep production, including converting an idled engine plant in Detroit into a full-time final assembly plant.
Fiat Chrysler will spend $1.6 billion converting the Mack Avenue Engine Complex into the final assembly plant for next generation Jeep Grand Cherokee and an all-new three-row, full-size Jeep SUV. The move will create 3,850 new jobs.
The company will also be adding production of two all-new Jeep models, the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, two models Manley believes will help fill a hole in the brand's portfolio when it comes to large SUVs. While most of the models will be sold in the U.S., Manley is looking at the production from a global viewpoint.
"All of these vehicles will be opened up for our export markets," he said.
As part of the expansion, Fiat Chrysler will also begin building plug-in hybrid and fully electric versions of Jeep models, though initial demand may be limited due to low gas prices. If that changes in the next several years and gas prices spike, Manley says Fiat Chrysler will be ready to expand production of green Jeep models.
Last year, Fiat Chrysler sold just under 1 million Jeeps in the U.S., an increase of 17 percent while auto industry sales overall were up fractionally.