T he Toledo built 2014 Jeep Cherokee will begin production in June. When the SUV rolls off the assembly line, it will be a return to a familiar name. But that may be the only thing die-hards may recognize.
T he New York Auto Show is where the world got its official first look at the Cherokee.
I t's a vehicle that reevs the engines of car dealers like Dave Doster of Yark Automotive Group, "when these roll out, it's going to be a case of we think we're not going to be able to have as many as we would like to have right away," explains Doster.
T he Cherokee is a return for Jeep. The SUV replaces the Liberty which suffered declining sales.
P arent company Chrysler is hoping sales make a U turn thanks in part to some new advantages, "the thing with the new model is that we expect to get a big increase in gas mileage in the sport utility. It's going to fill the void for a size that's in between the Grand Cherokee, the Compass, and above the Patriot," says Doster.
A uto analyst Mike Jackson, with his Automotive Forecasting credits the carmaker with advertising other models to customers until the Cherokee rolls into dealer showrooms, "in the automotive industry, just like any other, you have to play the cards you're dealt. So Liberty ended production, and that's fine, but what've done in the meantime is they had very strong sales of both the Compass which also received some additional investment as well as the Patriot," explains Jackson.
J ackson adds Jeep isn't playing it safe by appealing to their hard core fans. Instead, the automaker is taking risks by introducing a vehicle with global appeal, "they've really pushed the envelope in terms of product, in terms of styling, and also in terms of content."
T he end result will have you asking "is that a Jeep?" From a sleeker grill, to narrow headlights, and a less boxy shape. This certainly is not the Cherokee of the past.
" T he design I think will actually age quite nicely, because again this product is just launching now. That means it's going to be in the market place for a good six years and beyond," says Jackson.
L ongevity is the goal. But right now, gas prices are a real concern. But Chrysler isn't concerned. They say the new Cherokee has a fuel economy of 31 miles per gallon. That's about a 50 percent increase over the discontinued liberty. Another advantage, more space, "the reality is a lot of people have families, a lot of people have within a category of SUV's in general, and they fill a need," adds Jackson.
F or dealers, the list of benefits is endless. But there's one that has special meaning, "Toledo, there's a definite tie when it's produced here. They've got a built in customer base, you got enough people that work at the plant, their relatives, their friends, people that have had Jeeps before, so that's the other plus," explains Doster.
B ut what does it mean for the people who will build it? " I t means 2 things, it means job security for 1 thing because the Jeep Liberty that we were building was not real successful in the market place and we launched that car in 2001 on 3 shifts, then it went to 2 shifts, and then it went to 1 shift and it was running 1 shift half the time," explains Bruce Baumhower, President UAW Local 12.
B aumhower says all 1200 workers will return, plus 1300 new employees, and that won't be the only new thing , "this plant has been gutted. we're getting really a brand new plant. the new body shop opened up with just the steel girders on the walls. all the tooling and equipment is the latest greatest technology."
W ith the new technology, workers will create an SUV that shocks some people because of its design. The traditional boxy shape, out. In, a curvy and sleek body. Also, smaller headlights, and a memorable grill design.
A uto analyst Mike Jackson says the changes are part of Chrysler's commitment to performing at a higher level, "products are being designed and executed for core market, but at the same time, looking at the idea of conquering and capturing additional buyers in markets around the world."
P erforming on a global level has benefited another Jeep brand, the Grand Cherokee made in Detroit, "That facility is running on 3 shifts right now because of all of the global demand. Certainly there's strong demand in the U.S. and North American markets. And so the same thing is going to apply there for Cherokee."
B aumhower says the new Cherokee is confident the new Cherokee will have the same type of success for the Toledo plant, "having seen the marketplace and my own opinion of what I think it's going to do in the market place, I can see us going full capacity which would be 3 shifts at some point."
B aumhower adds the increased plant production will also creating a domino effect for other businesses in Northwest Ohio. "It creates another opportunity in the supplier industry here in Northwest Ohio. We have companies right here in Toledo and in Northwood who make the batteries for these plants." Companies like Johnson Controls which make batteries, seats, door panels and other parts that will be used in the Cherokee."
P roduction on the Cherokee is expected to begin in June, and Chrysler says the 2014 Cherokee will be in showrooms by August.