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Published: Wednesday, 9/19/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Chrysler impresses its dealers at Las Vegas show

Las Vegas preview includes replacement for Jeep Liberty

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Toledo-area Chrysler dealers say they were impressed by the announcement show put on by the company in Las Vegas. The manufacturer announced its plans for the replacement of the Jeep Liberty, seen here being made in Toledo, at the show but what was revealed in Vegas stayed in Vegas. Toledo-area Chrysler dealers say they were impressed by the announcement show put on by the company in Las Vegas. The manufacturer announced its plans for the replacement of the Jeep Liberty, seen here being made in Toledo, at the show but what was revealed in Vegas stayed in Vegas.
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Toledo-area dealers back from Chrysler’s dealer announcement show in Las Vegas say they were blown away by the automaker’s upcoming lineup, especially the all-new sport utility vehicle that will replace the Jeep Liberty next year.

Chrysler previewed 66 future models at the conference, including a pre-production version of the Liberty’s successor.

“I’ve been going to new car shows since 1986, and it was by far the best I’ve ever been to,” said Denny Amrhein, managing partner at Grogan’s Towne Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Toledo.

Chrysler hasn’t publicly said what it will call the new vehicle, and officials didn’t let the name slip in Las Vegas, either. Chrysler has been carefully keeping almost everything about the new model under wraps. Dealers said the automaker was extra cautious at this year’s show that no photos of the upcoming products leaked out, even making attendees go through metal detectors to ensure no one carried a camera into the show.

Still, based on what dealers are saying, the new vehicle is poised to be an exciting addition to Jeep’s lineup.

“The new Liberty, I’m telling you, is going to sell like you can’t believe,” Mr. Amrhein said. “It’s unbelievable. The interior, the exterior. It’s just the most amazing small sport utility.”

Chrysler introduced the Toledo-built Liberty in 2001 and redesigned it for the 2008 model year. Workers finished the last current-generation Liberty Aug. 16. Chrysler is working at the Toledo Assembly Complex to ready the line for the new model. Dealers said it has styling reminiscent of the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

It would be the second time in recent years Chrysler designers looked to Jeep’s flagship model for inspiration in sculpting a new design. When Chrysler refreshed the Jeep Compass for 2011, the small sport utility’s front end came out looking much like a baby Grand Cherokee.

Jeep’s newest vehicle impressed Monroe dealer Ralph Mahalak, Jr., who owns the Monroe Dodge Chrysler Jeep Superstore.

“It’s really slick-looking,” he said. “It’s very fuel-efficient. It’s going to have kind of a street version and an off-road version both, which is exciting. It’s going to keep that Jeep integrity.”

Mr. Mahalak also said the new vehicle reminds him much more of a Compass than it does a Liberty. He thinks it will play well in its segment, which has moved increasingly toward more carlike crossover designs in recent years.

“When I see the [2013 Ford] Escape and I see the [upcoming] Liberty, I see they’re going to go head to head,” Mr. Mahalak said. “The difference is we’re going to have more off-road capability.”

The upcoming model is expected to be in showrooms by the middle part of next year. It’s a given the new vehicle will get better fuel mileage than the previous model, though exact figures weren’t specified. Dealers expect some versions will eventually top 30 miles per gallon.

About 6,000 people attended the show last week. Chrysler’s presenters included chief executive Sergio Marchionne, who told the crowd Chrysler is less than two years away from an almost completely rejuvenated lineup.

“This is what we do. We build cars and trucks — solid, beautiful vehicles that customers want to buy,” he said.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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