DaimlerChrysler is weighing whether to continue building the current Jeep Cherokee sport utility after a newer version debuts in 2001, sources close to the automaker's plans said on Friday.
Executives at the world's No. 5 automaker are debating whether to continue the current Cherokee SUV for sale overseas on a limited basis -- 30,000-40,000 units a year -- or kill it after the new Cherokee, code-named ``KJ,'' goes on sale in January 2001, the sources told Reuters.
Workers in the Toledo, Ohio, plant where the Cherokee is made have been told the current Cherokee will be eliminated once KJ production comes online, United Auto Workers Local 12 President Bruce Baumhower said. Continued Cherokee exports would be welcome, however, as that would mean greater job security, he said.
DaimlerChrysler spokesman David Barnas said the company doesn't discuss future product plans.
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``Some of the sales and marketing people think that there's a place for the Cherokee to continue life even after the new KJ comes out,'' one source said. ``And then there's some people who think it's a ridiculous idea.''
The sources said a final decision hasn't been made yet, but analysts point out DaimlerChrysler long ago paid off the equipment used to build the current Cherokee and any additional models sold after the KJ debut would be welcome profits.
``All the tooling's been paid for,'' the source said. ``That car's been in production for 17 years. It would be pure gravy.''
Cherokee was introduced in the United States in 1983 and has never undergone a major, and expensive, design overhaul.
The SUV is built at a plant in Toledo where the company is spending more than $1 billion to upgrade existing factories and build a new facility in time for the KJ model.
The plant, which employs about 5,000 people, currently ships about one-quarter of its Cherokee production overseas, down from one-third in past years, before international sales slumped. It built almost 183,000 Cherokees last year, as well as more than 101,000 Wrangler SUVs.