DETROIT — Jeep maker Stellantis NV is seeking the unilateral right to sell its Auburn Hills headquarters and technical center, one of 18 facilities it has proposed it could sell or close as a part of its latest offer to the United Auto Workers, according to two sources familiar with the information.
The right to sell the trans-Atlantic automaker's North American headquarters that features Chrysler's Pentastar logo doesn't mean the automaker is abandoning Auburn Hills, according to one of the sources who requested anonymity without permission to speak publicly on the topic, but it would offer the company flexibility and options for the future of the 500-acre campus that includes labs, engineering facilities and design studios in a hybrid workplace. For example, it could sell the property and lease it back.
The proposal was included in Stellantis' fourth counteroffer to the union on Thursday evening before it declared a strike at the Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator plant in Toledo, Ohio, alongside Ford Motor Co.'s Bronco and Ranger plant in Wayne and General Motors Co.'s Wentzville midsize pickup and commercial van plant outside St. Louis.
The UAW represents salaried employees at the Auburn Hills headquarters. As a result, the union would have to agree to the proposal to allow Stellantis to sell the site that formerly served as Chrysler LLC's world headquarters.
In a late Monday statement, Auburn Hills Mayor Kevin McDaniel said: "We are proud to be the home of the Stellantis North America Headquarters. As Stellantis stands as the largest employer in our thriving community, we recognize the importance of addressing recent reports surrounding the closure of 18 U.S. facilities. To date, we have received no indications or information suggesting that Stellantis intends to shut down its headquarters in our city."
Mark Stewart, Stellantis' chief operating officer in North America, said Saturday that the selected sites are mostly Mopar aftermarket parts distribution centers that the company is looking to modernize, but wouldn't result in job reductions. The company has 20 centers in the United States, and there are 10 included in the list of 18 sites.
Stewart also mentioned underutilized locations. That, according to the sources, includes Trenton Engine Complex, which employs more than 600 hourly workers and whose north building already is idled and used for warehousing.
Additionally, Indiana's Tipton Transmission, where close to 300 hourly workers produce nine-speed transmissions that are also built at the nearby Indiana Transmission Plant in nearby Kokomo, is on the list. Workers would be able to transfer.
Stellantis also would be able to close the idled Mount Elliott Tool & Die facility in Detroit.
The idled Jeep Cherokee plant in Belvidere, Illinois, also was on that list. Stewart said Stellantis' offer, though, did include an unspecified "solution" for the idled Cherokee plant that was on the table if an agreement could be reached before the previous contract with the UAW expired a minute before midnight on Thursday. The proposal was to use that site for a large Mopar distribution hub, the sources said.
©2023 www.detroitnews.com. Visit at detroitnews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.