Launch of new Jeep Cherokee delayed by a month

The upgraded North section of the Chrysler Toledo Assembly Complex which will be used to produce the Jeep Cherokee is seen during a media tour, in Toledo, Ohio July 18, 2013. REUTERS/James Fassinger
The new Jeep Cherokee will be available in September. Credit: Reuters

The launch of Chrysler Group’s new 2014 Jeep Cherokee is being delayed by a month to resolve calibration issues with the vehicle’s new nine-speed transmission.

Cherokee production started June 24, a month later than planned, at Chrysler’s assembly facility in Toledo, Ohio. The automaker had planned to begin selling the 2014 Cherokee in August, but has pushed that back to September.

Chrysler on Tuesday confirmed it was pushing back the Cherokee launch after postponing a media test drive that was planned for next week.

The Cherokee will be the first vehicle to use a nine-speed automatic transmission, which Chrysler developed with German supplier ZF Friedrichshafen AG.

The Cherokee is also the first Jeep vehicle to be built on a Fiat SpA platform. Chrysler is an affiliate of Fiat.

Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne downplayed the delay and said Tuesday the company will work over the next several weeks to ensure that it’s corrected.

“These things go on all the time in any product launches and they go on with a certain degree of frequency,” he said on a conference call with investors and media announcing Chrysler’s second-quarter results.

“We keep on tweaking and finalizing the car.” The company said the issue revolved around the calibration of the new transmission.

The success of the Cherokee, which replaces the Liberty in Jeep’s lineup, is seen as critical to Chrysler’s success. The company stopped production of the Liberty last August, and Marchionne said Chrysler was “paying a huge price” for not having a compact SUV on the market.

A smooth introduction of the Cherokee, Marchionne added, is “an absolute necessary condition” for Chrysler to meet its financial targets in the second half.

Chrysler on Tuesday lowered its 2013 profit forecast to a range between $1.7 billion and its original target of $2.2 billion.

Chrysler has invested $550 million in its Toledo plant to produce the new Cherokee.

The automaker is in the process of ramping up production of the Cherokee. It’s adding a second shift of workers, and at full capacity the plant will be able to produce 500 vehicles per nine-hour shift, or about 240,000 Jeeps a year.


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