NEW YORK – Jeep presented the 2014 Cherokee to the automotive press and the world today, with officials saying the all-new vehicle has just the right mix of off-road capability and on-road comfort and economy to slingshot the brand back to the top of the pack in the very crowded mid-size SUV segment.
The afternoon news conference at the New York International Auto Show was flashy, with a gray Cherokee equipped with an off-road package crawling to the top of an uneven heap of fake rocks. A second upper-trim level maroon Cherokee joined it seconds later.
"Jeep capability just became a lot more comfortable," Mike Manley, Jeep brand Chief Executive Officer, told the packed room.
The 2014 Cherokee will be built in Toledo at the Toledo Assembly Complex, replacing the Jeep Liberty. Chrysler invested $500 million in the plant, installing all new-tooling to prepare for the new vehicle and is in the process of hiring a second shift of workers.
Pricing hasn't been announced, but officials say the vehicle should start showing up in dealerships sometime in the year's third quarter.
Chrysler officials are touting the Cherokee as a vehicle that's designed for the broad market, but retains the heritage that defines Jeep. In addition to three trim levels, the Cherokee will also be available with a Trailhawk package that adds several touches for real off-road driving, including a more robust four-wheel-drive system and steel skid plates underneath.
Mr. Manley said the Trailhawk will likely be the first model produced once the plant begins building the vehicles.
After the press conference, Mr. Manley said the Cherokee should outsell the now-dead Liberty by a significant margin.
"We've been a niche player," he said. "I haven't liked being a niche player. I've got the vehicle, it's got the capability, its a true Jeep. We're going to do well with this, I hope."
The vehicle will come standard with a nine-speed automatic transmission and offer four-cylinder and six-cylinder engine options. The four-cylinder will return up to 31 miles per gallon, Mr. Manley said.
The Cherokee also will have a parking assist function, the first Chrysler Group product to be such equipped.
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