The Toledo Blade published an article discussing the recent decision to continue production of the current-generation Jeep Cherokee past the debut of the next-generation KJ:
Some Jeep workers yesterday were buoyed by news they will continue making the Cherokee after a new Toledo-made sport-utility vehicle enters the market next year - a decision expected to cement 4,900 jobs while better positioning the brand.
About three weeks after the Cherokee posted record domestic sales, DaimlerChrysler AG's U.S. side announced yesterday it will extend the sport-utility vehicle's production past its previous November deadline. Demand will dictate how long Cherokee production will continue at Toledo Jeep Assembly, Jodi Armstrong, a spokesman for the automaker, said.
"The Cherokee's sales were up significantly over the past year, so the market is demanding we keep the Cherokee alive," she said. "This will just help boost the Jeep brand."
The Blade reported yesterday that the announcement was expected.
As competition from Ford Motor Co. and others continues to heat up the SUV market, the Toledo-born Jeep brand will have four entries instead of the previously expected three. Toledo Jeep's new SUV - code-named KJ - will hit the market in midsummer 2001, joining Toledo-made Wranglers and Cherokees and Detroit-made Grand Cherokees.
One top United Auto Workers Local 12 official said the union was told the Cherokee's extended production deadline is Sept. 30, 2001, and the automaker will continue to assess the market. That's a far cry from the situation four months ago, when they were assured of the SUV's doom, said Ken Dudley, acting chairman for the local's Jeep unit.
We've been receiving tons of email regarding this decision by DaimlerChrysler - virtually all of it positive. Here's a sample:
The smartest thing that Jeep has done in a long time is to continue producing the existing Cherokee. It was bad enough that they minivanized the Cherokee in 1997 while cheapening and cutting quality from the previous models (All foam seats with no frame, cheap plastic door panels, no map pockets, ignition placement where keys hit your knees, removal of cargo strips from rear floor, the deletion of chrome while replaced with the monochromatic (cheap) look and this is on the upscale Classic model). My previous 91 Laredo model was much nicer. The new model in the spy photos look more like a minivan than a jeep. It seems Isuzu and Nissan have a better idea than Chrysler as to what a Jeep Cherokee should really look like with the xtera and the rodeo. DC please do no further mess up a good thing or I won't be buying another one. If you really want to improve the Cherokee build a 1991 model not another minivan like the Grand.
We also heard from a couple of readers that the current rumor going around is that the current Cherokee will be produced for an additional 3 years - The Toledo Blade reported that the union contract was extended until September 30, 2001...
Our only remaining question is this: what are they going to call the KJ?
Have any ideas? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.