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Published: Friday, 6/7/2013 - Updated: 2 years ago

Chrysler teases customers with new Cherokee

Sneak previews of ’14 SUV offered in area showrooms

Area dealers say customer interest is intense in the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, shown at the New York Auto Show earlier this year. Area dealers say customer interest is intense in the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, shown at the New York Auto Show earlier this year.

The new 2014 Jeep Cherokee still isn’t on sale, but the vehicle will make a brief appearance in two Toledo-area showrooms this weekend.

Officials with Chrysler Group LLC dropped off models of the midsize sport utility vehicle Friday afternoon at Charlie’s Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram in Maumee and at Grogan’s Towne Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram in Toledo.

The vehicles will be on display all day today. Michael Barchick, vice president and general manager of Charlie’s, said the Jeep already has caused a stir.

“There were probably 15 to 18 people on the floor when they rolled it in, and everyone was just standing there with their mouths hanging open,” Mr. Barchick said.

The Cherokee, which replaces the Liberty in Jeep’s lineup, will be built at Chrysler’s Toledo Assembly Complex.

Chrysler says the vehicles will be for sale in showrooms in the year’s third quarter, but the automaker hasn’t been more specific. Pricing has yet to be announced.

Top company officials originally said full-scale production was to start in May, but that didn’t happen. Chrysler has not commented on the reason for the delay.

To be fair to Chrysler, the company has said all along the vehicle would arrive in showrooms in the third quarter, a deadline that gave the company a good bit of wiggle room. The plant is building low numbers of preproduction models.

The Cherokee is one of the company’s most complex launches.

The vehicle has an all-new powertrain, including a nine-speed transmission and four-wheel-drive systems.

With that in mind, analysts have said Chrysler is likely being extra careful hat it has everything absolutely right before the vehicle goes to market.

A Chrysler spokesman echoed that last month, telling The Blade the company is focused on delivering a top-quality vehicle, not the calendar.

The delays don’t worry Mr. Barchick.

“If it’s not right, you’d rather let them take a step back and get the production issues corrected. I think it’s good. We don’t want it till it’s perfect,” he said.

Whenever the vehicle gets to market, it will fill a hole in Jeep’s lineup that existed to some extent even when the Liberty was being made.

“It’s huge not only for Chrysler, but it’s huge for the dealer body too,” Mr. Barchick said. “We were selling maybe 10 to 15 Libertys a month. We think we’ll do at least double that, if not more.”

The new Jeep is expected to compete better against segment leaders such as the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape.

Today actually will be the second chance for Toledoans to check out Jeep’s newest offering here in town.

Chrysler loaned two Cherokees to Yark Automotive Group over the Memorial Day weekend to help celebrate the dealership’s 32nd anniversary.

Doug Kearns, Yark’s general manager, said the Jeeps drew “overwhelming positive response.”

“The question everybody had was, ‘Can I drive it?’ ” he said, noting those requests could not be granted.

Even though the road tests will have to wait, Mr. Kearns said Yark has about a dozen orders from people to be submitted once the car goes on sale.

Mr. Kearns expects the majority of Cherokees sold in the Toledo market to be four-wheel-drive versions. The crossover SUV also will come in a front-wheel-drive version.

Jeep promises the Cherokee will get up to 31 miles per gallon with the right options.

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

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