BELVIDERE, Ill. (WTVO) — With the idling of the Belvidere Assembly Plant, automaker Stellantis joined the ranks of other large companies, such as Caterpillar, making the move out of Illinois.
The factory was officially was placed on “idle” by the company on Tuesday. That term means it intends to shut down the plant.
Stellantis is the parent company of American auto brands Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler, and Ram, along with European manufacturers Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Fiat, Maserati, Opel, Peugeot, Vauxhall and others.
On the same day the Belvidere plant ceased production, Stellantis announced it would invest in three plants in Kokomo, Indiana, to support the production of electric drive modules (EDM) that will be integrated into vehicles designed on the STLA Large and STLA Frame platforms for future electric vehicles.
In a meeting with reporters Tuesday, Carlos Tavares, CEO of the company formed by combining Fiat Chrysler and France’s PSA Peugeot, said Stellantis is “looking for solutions” for Belvidere, which now has no new vehicle to build. The last Jeep Cherokee small SUV rolled off the plant’s assembly line on Tuesday.
The company, Tavares said, is executing a transformation to electric vehicles, which are 40% more expensive to make than those with internal combustion engines. Stellantis, he said, can’t pass the increased costs to consumers because many wouldn’t be able to afford new cars. It also can’t sell EVs at a loss, so it’s left with absorbing the added costs.
“We need to adapt to this new world,” Tavares said. “The reality of the transformation of the market is the reality that we need to face.”
He said the company is not seeking specific concessions from the Belvidere plant. “This is a global issue. This is not a Belvidere issue,” he said.
More and more auto companies are pivoting to building electric vehicles, so state lawmakers are taking more steps to get them to build in Illinois.
However, those incentives were just not good enough. Lawmakers passed the “Reimagining Electric Vehicles Act,” or the REV Act, in 2022. It included a list of tax incentives for companies if they chose Illinois to build.
More states have passed similar, and in some cases better, benefits for companies since then. State, along with manufacturing leaders, passed changes in December in veto session in response.
Only one company in Decatur has taken advantage of the REV Act so far.
Stellantis is not the only major company to move out of Illinois recently:
Ken Griffin, formerly the richest man in Illinois, announced in June 2022 that he was uprooting his multibillion-dollar hedge fund, Citadel, and moving to Miami, due to crime.
Construction manufacturer Caterpillar left Illinois for Texas, and aerospace company Boeing has also fled the state.
The last U.S. Census showed that 110,127 people left the state between July 2021 and July 2022.
In January, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker pushed back at assertations that businesses are leaving the state due to violent crime.
“That’s not what we’re hearing. In fact, you saw that Kellogg moved to Chicago just recently, so just another example of corporate headquarters coming to Illinois We’re doing a lot to attract businesses and retain businesses,” Pritzker told CNBC.
Chris Kempczinski, McDonald’s CEO, said that the lack of safety is keeping employees from returning to the company’s Chicago headquarters. “There is a general sense that our city is in crisis. The truth is it’s more difficult today to for me to convince a promising McDonald’s executive to relocate to Chicago from one of our other offices than it was just a few years ago,” he said.
Illinois also boasts one of the largest tax burdens in the United States.
Seventeen percent of the household income of Illinois residents goes to taxes, with the state being called the least tax-friendly state in the country, according to a new report.
Illinois’s tax burden now ranks the 7th highest in the U.S. Only New York, Connecticut, Hawaii, Vermont, California, and New Jersey pay more.
Most recent research finds that Illinois’ property taxes, which are often the largest burden for residents, are the second highest in the nation.
Illinois also ranks second highest in gas taxes. According to AAA, gas prices in Illinois are the highest in the Midwest.
Illinois is among seven states planning to introduce a wealth tax, which could also impact small businesses and farmers.
Critics of the plan believe the wealth tax will drive entrepreneurs out of the state.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.