The delay of the redesigned Cherokee has given the new 2001 Ford Escape and other small sport-utilities a chance to take Jeep's customers.
Jeep had planned to introduce the redesigned Cherokee this summer, but problems with suppliers prompted the company to push back the date. Plans now call for a summer launch in 2001 as a 2002 model.
"It handicaps us to a great degree. But we'd rather have a dependable car and not rush it to market and not have it come back with a lot of problems," said Ken Dudley, vice chairman of UAW Local 12 at the Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio. Dudley is coordinating the Cherokee launch. He said the plant is capable of producing 200,000 units annually.
In designing the new vehicle, Jeep engineers opted for an independent rear suspension, a set-up that would have been unheard of a few years ago. The independent suspension yields a smoother and more supple ride, but to some enthusiasts it is not as durable in the unforgiving off-road terrain where Jeep made its name. But since most drivers never venture off road, Jeep decided to give on-road users the carlike ride and handling they prefer.
Even with the nod to comfort, the new Cherokee will be able to tackle the wilderness. DaimlerChrysler's then-senior vice president of design, John Herlitz, said earlier this year that all Jeep vehicles have to be able to tackle the Rubicon off-road trail in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. The new Cherokee is no exception.
This is the best confirmation we have so far that the KJ will sport independent rear suspension. Be sure to check out the rest of the article!