If you've been reading Car & Truck News lately, you've been reading about the current state of confusion about the future of the 2001 Cherokee. It seems that there are two points of view within DaimlerChrysler about the next-generation Cherokee. The first point of view is that the KJ (the vehicle their planning on building at the Jeep plant later this year) is not an appropriate replacement for the current Cherokee. This camp feels that the KJ is not worthy of the Cherokee name and that the KJ is not the proper direction for the Cherokee to be heading in.
The second camp feels that the KJ would round out the Jeep lineup and appeal to today's compact SUV buyers. Reportadly, they point out that the KJ can navigate the Rubicon and perform admirably off-road despite the fact that is it geared for on-road driving.
After the disappointment of the 2001 XJ not showing up at the NAIAS earlier this month, the rumors have really started to fly about the 2001 Cherokee. The latest rumor is that the KJ will be built and not be branded a Jeep! This would leave a gaping hole in the Jeep lineup until a suitable replacement for the Cherokee could be built. Most of our readers keep coming back to the same thing: build the Dakar. For those of you who aren't familiar with the Dakar, it is a Jeep concept vehicle that looked like a cross between a Wrangler and a Cherokee with a bit of Land Rover thrown in. It was a 4-door vehicle that has accumulated a cult following. Here's a story we did on the Dakar (you can only access this if you're an registered member of mike's totally free jeep news.
So, what would happen to the Cherokee in the near term if the KJ is not branded a Jeep? Well, since DaimlerChrysler wasn't planning on stopping production of the current Cherokee, it is logical to assume that the 2001 Cherokee won't be "all-new" as we've been anticipating. The guys over at Car & Truck News are reporting that a future (2004) short-wheelbase Grand Cherokee could become the Cherokee or a four-door version of the Wrangler, due in 2002, could become a Dakar-like Cherokee.
Finally, one of our most frequent contributors gave us his take on the whole situation:
One of the scenarios mentioned was that the next Cherokee would be essentially a 4-door Wrangler, which is reportedly to debut in 2002. If you recall, one of my earlier predictions (last year, I believe) for the next Cherokee was essentially that vehicle which is being discussed. To me, that still makes the most sense.
I've also thought about a long and short wheelbase Grand Cherokee, but that was before the debut of the Durango. DC has been making efforts (recently) to make vehicles that don't compete with one another. A long wheelbase Grand Cherokee would run counter to that thinking. It would clearly compete with the Durango, especially if it came with a third seat, as was reported.
One other comment: If the KJ debuts (as a Jeep) with only an independent front suspension (as was reported yesterday), it will satisfy nobody. It certainly won't satisfy the solid-axle freaks. And, it won't satisfy people like me, who have been hoping for a Jeep with a fully independent suspension system. It will become just another ordinary SUV. That would be a disaster for Jeep.
I'm telling you. This better than a soap opera!
A soap opera doesn't have this many twists and turns! Stay tuned...